Thursday, August 4, 2011

Z - Movie Review

Watched a 1969 French classic 'Z'. It's a political thriller that starts with a 'claimer' which goes something like - 'If the characters resemble anyone living or dead it is deliberate'. From that moment on the movie cocks a snook at everything that goes on in the world of politics especially with relation to the assassination of Greek democrat politician Gigoris Lambrakis in 1963. It is a hard hitting, true blue account of not just the times when it was made, when Greece was military dictatorship, but of politics across the world as we see it today. It is hard not to feel a sense of outrage by the movie.

Th movie starts with the Chief of Police stating his views and the views of those in power, on how left wing ideology must be dealt with, and thus sets the framework for the state versus socialists. From there the action shifts. The leader of the Opposition, a democrat, is to address a rally supporting nuclear disarmament. The state is clearly against this line of thought and all places for the rally are mysteriously cancelled. A small hall is given for the leader to speak. Lumpen elements beat up the small crowd of his supporters, watched helplessly by the police. The police goes so far as to say that the rally is not wanted by a section of the crowd and the crowd could be agitated. It is obvious that the crowd is manipulated.

After the rally the leader, who has already been attacked once, and who has received a death threat that very day, is attacked in full view of the public and the police, in the middle of the road, by a careening truck. He suffers grievous injuries. A supporter chases the truck and manages to get on it, throw off the man who attacked the leader and hold the driver until a policeman arrives. The case becomes sensitive as the leader of the opposition is critical and another senator is badly injured. A case is built by the police that two drunks have been caught and the leader got injured in the subsequent accident by two drunks. Their case is backed by several witnesses. It is quite apparent that the police is behind the attack.

However things change drastically when the leader dies. The autopsy confirms a blow to the head by a club as the cause of the death and not by the truck accident. The investigating magistrate senses a rat. A witness comes forward to testify to his knowledge of how the plan was to kill the leader through an organisation called CROC which is used by the police to carry out such activities in return for petty favours. Meticulously meeting witnesses, disproving their claims, proving police complicity, the magistrate is helped by the stubborn witness, party members, a photo journalist who furnishes much information. Despite much resistance and threats from the government and the police the magistrate indicts all the top police officials, the actual murderers and everyone who was involved against whom there is reasonable doubt. One is glad that the magistrate sticks to his stand, does his job honestly - feels good that the justice that is being denied, hidden is delivered.

But in a quick epilogue the movie discloses that the magistrate has been removed from the case, the killers get small sentences, witnesses killed in accidents, the police officers let off, the photo journalist jailed. The government also bans several things including long hair, Beatles, Sartre, Beckett, sociology, free press and among many others the letter Z, which means 'he lives'.

'Z' is unlike any political thriller I have seen. It takes one incident and shows how the state can get into criminal activity to protect its own ideology. There are many moments which ring true to our society today. Politics is always the same. It is another case where reality proves that it can engage far more than fiction. A fine piece of work and a highly, pacy and enjoyable movie.


Vetirmagal said...

Nostalgic it was! Reading about Z. It impressed me so much when I first watched in a theatre. I could not even follow the dialogues, but one could guess and understand , and fell sorry without following dialogues verbatim.

Your page reminded me of the good movies of those days!

Harimohan said...

Dear Vetrimagal,
I loved watching the movie. It must have been fun watching it in those days when he whole movie watching experience was delightful, the times so hopeful and full of change and excitement, people and ideas flocking together...I do think we belong to the most blessed of times to have seen both worlds! Where did you watch this movie Z?