Characteristically, modern day political thrillers arouse implausible schemes and feature countless red herrings. However, the 1969 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film counters this contemporary form. Z wisely places credible incidents and politics in the vanguard; in turn, it is perchance the best film in its genre.
As the film opens, a line reads, “Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is deliberate." With that said, Costa-Gavras does a fine job of reenacting the real-life assassination of Greek Opposition Leader Gregorios Lambrakis that occurred in May of 1963.
Following this basis, a leftist political leader known as The Deputy (Yves Montand) is murdered after speaking at a rally. As a result, The Examining Magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant) must uncover the corruption within a democracy mildewed with fascist principles. The General (Pierre Dux), the cops, and the Christian Royalist Organization against Communism (CROC) must mask the real motive behind beating a man on account of his ideals.
More than being analogous to an actual event, Z opens one’s eyes to a world of political corruption. With this in mind, it is not surprising that Costa-Gavras’ father was a political activist — specializing in resistance. This fatherly influence certainly pans out on the big-screen. By merging the edgy and the opinionated, Costa-Gavras intelligently allows the tension to swell at its own pace and the corruption to leak on its own terms. Costa-Gavras aptly earns the right to be titled “master of fast-moving political cinema.”
Surprisingly, aside from the direction, Yves Montand’s character is most likely what you will remember. Even though The Deputy perishes before the picture’s halfway mark, the character is so expertly developed that he leaves a lasting impression. Furthermore, the flashbacks that depict Yves’ character experiencing safety, love, and happiness strike a chord.
All-in-all, Z works on a variety of levels. It entertains, keeps you on the edge of your chair, and liberates your mind with personal criticism on the power of established institutions. From its quotes (i.e. “Always blame the U.S.A., even if you are wrong” and “A cannon is fired and a teacher’s salary goes up in smoke”), to its closing remarks that enlighten (“We dream of a world with no parties — left or right” and “The letter 'Z' translates to 'He is alive!'"), Z is a commendable motion picture with the proper agenda. What’s more, it is “lithe and fierce” without letting up.
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