Review: Z (1969)

Z (1969)

Directed by: Costa Gavras | 127 minutes | drama, history | Actors: Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant, François Périer, Irene Papas, Jacques Perrin, Pierre Dux, Charles Denner, Georges Géret, Bernard Fresson, Marcel Bozzuffi, Julien Guiomar, Magali Noël, Renato Salvatori

Director Konstantinos Gavras (known as Costa-Gavras) made no friends with the Greek regime that held the reins between 1967 and 1974. In 1969 his film ‘Z’ was released, a response to the military regime that predominated in Greece. To put it mildly, the far-right group of colonels were not happy with Costa-Gavras’ film and ‘Z’ was banned in Greece. Despite this, the film received a lot of attention abroad and ‘Z’ was still a success. An eyesore for the junta, so they decided to ban the symbol and sound of the letter Z as well. After the death of the murdered leftist politician Grigoris Lambrakis, the letter became the symbol for the protesters against the regime. The sound ”sea” means in Greek ”he lives”, a reference to Lambrakis.

Besides being worth checking out for its historical background, ‘Z’ is also a movie that uses a very interesting story structure. There is no clear main character that the film revolves around. Costa-Gavras is constantly changing perspective. For example, the film initially follows a group of left-wing activists trying to mount a demonstration against the regime. Then the leader of the party (Yves Montand) comes into the picture and becomes the center of attention. When the rioting mob of the far-right supporters decide to attack him, they are followed for a while. In this way Costa-Gavras always manages to keep the tensions between the two groups alive. Here and there are also a few elements of the Nouvelle Vague movement hidden. Costa-Gavras uses quick flashbacks and a handheld camera to add to the chaos in the film.

‘Z’ is a frustrating movie. Not only because of the corruption and dishonesty from the authorities, but also because the film is still so relevant after more than fifty years. Compared to 1969, it seems that little has changed politically. Unfortunately, there are still many countries that have the same political structure as the fictional country in ‘Z’. The film clearly influenced ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’, Aaron Sorkin’s ”courtroom drama” that came out last year. There are many parallels to be drawn between the two films, despite being fifty years apart.

Costa-Gavras impressively shows how a regime works by also highlighting the other side of the story. Because of the suspicious tricks and undemocratic decision-making of the army, you as a viewer hope that justice will be victorious at the end of the film. ‘Z’ is energizing and calls on the viewer to fight for freedom when it is needed. It is a timeless message to the people never to bow to injustice, just as the Greeks did in their period of oppression.

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