Z

  • Directors: Costa Gavras
  • Producers: Jacques Perrin, Ahmed Rachedi
  • Writers: Story, Vassilis Vassilikos, Screenplay, Costa Gavras
  • Genres: Drama, History, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Jean Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, Irene Papas, Jacques Perrin

The location of the action is never expressly stated (filming took place primarily in Algiers), but there are hints (such as a Greek typewriter) that it is Greece in the early 1960s. Furthermore, in the opening credits there is a counter-disclaimer which reads (in translation): “Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is DELIBERATE.”

The story begins with the closing moments of a rather dull government lecture and slide show on agricultural policy, after which the leader of the security police of a right-wing military-dominated government takes over the podium for an impassioned speech describing the government’s program to combat leftism, using the metaphors of “a mildew of the mind”, an infiltration of “isms”, or “sunspots”.

The scene then shifts to preparations for a rally of the opposition faction where the Deputy (Montand) is to give a speech advocating nuclear disarmament. It is obvious that there have been attempts to prevent the speech’s delivery. The venue has been changed to a much smaller hall and logistical problems have appeared out of nowhere. As the Deputy crosses the street from the hall after giving his speech, a delivery truck speeds past him and a man on the open truck bed strikes him down with a club. The injury eventually proves fatal, and by that time it is already clear to the viewer that the police have manipulated witnesses to force the conclusion that the victim was simply run over by a drunk driver.

As the closing credits roll, before listing the cast and crew, the filmmakers first list the things banned by the junta. They include: peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music (“la musique populaire”), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugène Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, and new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which was used as a symbolic reminder that Lambrakis and by extension the spirit of resistance lives (zi = “he (Lambrakis) lives”).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *