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taut, intense and has a powerful impact
This is a movie about Greece in the years preceding the coup d'etat of 1967 when pro-fascist military junta, known as "The dictatorship of the colonels", took over the government.
The year is 1963 and senior police officers, with the help of the extreme right, organize murder of a leftist politician who was supposed to speak at a rally of anti-war movement, advocating nuclear disarmament and Greece leaving the NATO. The following investigation will further increase tensions in an unstoppable spiral of cover-ups, disillusionment, intimidation, rage, repression and resistance.
The core of the Z's story is dramatization of political murder of the Grigoris Lambrakis, a member of the Greek parliament, left-wing politician, athlete and physician who fought against militarism and for nuclear disarmament. He was killed by right-wingers in the way described in the movie. His murder was followed by a huge public condemnation and popular rage. His funeral in Athens turned into a mass demonstration against right-wing government with the participation of over 500.000 people.
The investigation led by Christos Sartzetakis revealed deep interconnection of the police and army with pro-fascist organizations. Sartzetakis become a symbol of integrity for the way he conducted the investigation, defied pressures and rejected cover-ups. After the military junta took over in 1967, he spent a year in a military prison.
Since the murder of Lambrakis in 1963, through military junta of 1967 until the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, most popular graffiti in Greece was a big letter Z, short for Zi (He lives!), a slogan that summarized not only the protest against murder of Lambrakis, but the will to fight against the military dictatorship and opposition to the entire system established in 1949 after the defeat of the communists in the Greek Civil War (1946-1949).
Based on actual events.
Absolutely chilling. At the end, seriously, as I sat stunned while the credits rolled by, I felt like curling up in the fetal position. It's a powerful, powerful film, based on the real-life 1963 assassination of anti-war activist Grigoris Lambrakis in Greece by right-wing thugs, who were sponsored by the military dictatorship in power at the time. With corruption going to the highest level of government, one using dirty tricks, intimidation, spying, attacks on the free press, assault, and murder, you might feel enraged while watching it, or powerless.
Jean-Louis Trintignant turns in a great performance as the magistrate who looks into what is stated to be a drunk driving accident by the police. We feel the tension as he tries to uncover the truth, coming across disturbing facts. He has to withstand coercion from a General (Pierre Dux), but at the same time, beware that politics on the other side weren't somehow involved. We feel for so many characters here - one that comes forward as a witness, only to be attacked, the activists demonstrating against nuclear arms, who are beaten up by the police, and the magistrate himself, whose career is threatened unless he 'plays ball'. The bravery required is humbling. The film and its direction from Costa-Gavras feels very much a product of its time, and yet also modern, and timeless. In little moments he lightens the tone, such as when a series of officers all try to exit out the wrong door as they're led out of the courtroom. Even there, aside from the humor, one could see it as commentary on human folly, and how we repeat the same mistakes with a rotating cast of characters over time.
The American support of the dictatorship is barely referenced, and yet we feel it there, heavy in the background, and it's shameful - so shameful that the film was accused of being 'Anti-American' in politically charged 1969. It's so ironic that in defending against the evils of communism, governments often employ the very same totalitarian, heavy-handed tactics against their citizens. They're so busy generating propaganda and demonizing the enemy that they don't notice that they've started becoming like the enemy. It's not unlike decrying the cruelty of extremists in our own time, and then turning around and authorizing torture. What it really means is to be wary of anyone in power, for some will go to any lengths to hold on to it.
I think of the quote "That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be," and thank goodness for films like this, which simply tell the truth, even if it is a punch in the gut.
With it’s modesty, Z is telling the truths in a majestic way. No politically correct, crystal clear story telling - cinematography - editing all around. nearly perfect thriller to experience.
An exceptional political thriller. Costa-Gavras directs masterfully, and the film's editing by Francoise Bonnot tells the story so effectively that even today, almost 50 years after its release, it looks more original and innovative than the majority of contemporary movies. A basic knowledge of what happened in Greece during the 60s is welcome but not required to enjoy this movie, as it works also as a separate story. I caught myself thinking of Z a few nights ago, when I watched the excellent Detroit by K. Bigelow. That particular film would benefit greatly from the tight and concise narration of Z, which keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. Very sadly, Costa Gavras has made a few more good movies over the years, but no other work of his can compare to this visual and nearly flawless masterpiece. Francoise Bonnot won the Academy Award for editing in 1969. She was never given the opportunity to film another fast-paced thriller, and although her other work includes highlights such as Missing, Frida and the Tempest, she never gave us another masterpiece like Z. An absolute must-watch.
The murder of a leftist leader is at the center of this political thriller that draws upon actual events and moves along with a rather engaging cinema verite style that I rather enjoyed, even if this sort of film isn't exactly in my casual viewing wheelhouse.
Well worth a look, give it a rental.
A hard-hitting political thriller based on the right-wing military junta in Greece in the 1960s, Z is a benchmark film with brilliant direction by Costa-Gavras. Jean-Pierre Trintignant is brilliant as the fair, law-abiding, no nonsense magistrate and the film's ending is thought provoking on how people in high places get away literally with murder and the small fry face the gallows. A must see.
The film's anti-fascism always reads as raw and angry but never unfocused. A remarkable thriller.
A little bit of lull in the middle but the film got better and more entertaining as it went on.
Slyly satirical, edge of your seat, and a perfectly constructed thriller that stands with the best films of all time.