As I’m burning through the DVR (and this is the last one for now!) here comes a live-review write-up of the shortest-titled film thus far in Cinema 1544 history (and I’m not sure how you get it shorter, unless you consider alphabetical priority in title length – “M” would be a good candidate to be shown): Z by Costa-Gavras.
I don’t remember this one very well form my first viewing, so here goes the live-review!
Oooh, intentional similarity to real persons and events! Although the story is based on the assassination of a Greek politican, I can’t tell whether the film is intended to take place in Greeve or not, what with all these French people in it. From the Bouzouki music, I’m guessing it’s supposed to be Greece.
The whole thing starts with a scientifically-confused speech about the “ideological mildew” in society, being given by a military officer to a group of officers and civil servants. We move from here to the government basically shutting down a Communist opposition political group’s opportunities to rent an adequate meeting hall for a rally they are planning, while simultaneously the leader of the group is the subject of an assassination threat.
The meeting, which is finally held in a venue for only 200, is marred by violent encounters out front of the meeting hall. The leader even gets smacked on the head with a bottle on his way in to the meeting to give his speech. But on his way out, it’s worse. He gets whacked on the head with a club by a passenger in a three-wheeler. The guy who hits him even goes to the press and tries to get his name in the paper – until he finds out that the leader is about to succumb to his wounds (he takes until an hour into the film to actually die).
The question that really remains among the Communists is whether the police were passive and ineffective, or whether they were in on it. Meanwhile, while I would like to say that the military is interested in making the whole thing look like a traffic accident, the more accurate thing to say would be that the culprits have put together an impressive number of witnesses who testify towards the story of an accident, and the government isn’t particularly interested in trying to dig any deeper. However, some dude does dig deeper. Unfortunately I really have no idea who he is – the film is (let’s be generous) not very good at developing characters. I think he’s called a “magistrate” further on in the film, so I’ll go with that.
Next, a witness in whom one of the culprits confided that the attack was a murder is attacked (hit on the head with a club by a passing vehicle, again!) on his way to testify. He’s not too seriously hurt, but the police refuse to believe his story of the attack, insisting that he fell on his own.
Anyway, one thing leads to another (I hate to say that, but the narrative thread of this film is so…tenuous) and evidence eventually leads to the Chief of Security himself (whoever he is – he looks familiar) ordering the “hit”, using members of a local anti-communist group that is either secret (the press knows nothing about their existence) or widely known (all the dudes on the street know all about it), and which apparently is abetted or tolerated by the police.
Finally, the magistrate puts together enough evidence to indict several governmental higher-ups, you know, whoever they are. Three dudes wearing a lot of medals who don’t look familiar get indicted for first degree murder, followed by a general who at least has been present in the film. I though maybe he was a chief of police – though I guess it’s basically the same thing.
But the regime wins in the end – a postscriptum runs through the trial: seven murdered witnesses, the military officers get off, the opposition party leaders are killed off, and the regime bans basically every author ever to write a book and pop music and Russian-style toast (whatever that is) and all other sorts of stuff. The Dismal End.
The story is familiar enough – a corrupt government contrives the murder of an opposition leader. But I just don’t really think it was that well done. You can’t keep track of the characters, the thread of the narrative is confusing, and as a cherry on top, the “good guys” win and then immediately the epilogue says, nah, they lost anyway. And the portrayal of the two sides (the current regime completely and totally corrupt, the opposition 100% noble, innocently well-intentioned, and blemish-free) is cartoonishly naïve. Roger Ebert said this about the film: “These would seem to be completely political events, but the young director Costa-Gavras has told them in a style that is almost unbearably exciting.” I don’t think we were watching the same movie.