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Film Rewiev: Z

Costa Gavras’s legendary masterpiece Z (Immortal), which won the best picture Oscar in 1970, takes its name from the ancient Greek letter “Z” meaning “He Lives”. The film takes place in 1963 when the spirit of the Cold War prevailed. As a result of the USA’s invasion of Vietnam, it was the period when Anti-Americanism began to rise throughout the world and the war began to be questioned, including the US public opinion. Through a “political assassination”, Costa Gavras sheds light on the bipolar global system divided between East and West, its reflections on strategies, international organizations, countries and its actors “through a country whose name is not used”. The name is not used, but the audience understands that the country where the events took place was Greece, which became a member of NATO in 1954.

In May 1963, social democrat MP Gregoris Lambrakis was assassinated by an extremist group after giving an anti-war speech in Thessaloniki. Vassilis Vassilikos wrote his novel “Z-  is alive” about the assassination of Lambrakis. At that time, Costa-Gavras was at the IDHEC film school in France. Gavras’brother, who was politically active throughout his life, sent a copy of the novel Z. And Z were made into a movie in 1969. Jorge Semprún wrote the screenplay. Mikis Theodorakis, who was imprisoned by the Greek junta at that time, prepared their music. And it turned out to be still #1 in political film, still immortal…

The movie Z tell about the networks of strategies and blocks extending to countries, their oppressive administration, the manipulation of society through nationalist and religious discourses, and the state of ignorance turned into a useful monster, with an impressive cinematic language. For example, Grigoris Lambrakis, who symbolizes the Z, is a champion who represents his country in other international competitions, including the Olympics, and brings medals to his country. But the community that came to lynch him is not even aware of it. They do not know that Lambrakis founded the Greek Athletes’ Association in 1943, held regular competitions, and used the proceeds from these games to finance public food banks for the starving population. This rude crowd, who describe themselves as nationalists, said, “We don’t want foreign superiors to overthrow the police state. Russian or American. We don’t want war. We are against all weapons.” they attack true patriots who defend their opinions. Because the organizations formed by the strategies are ignorant, square forces trained only to do the instructions given to them and to attack.

In this very successful work in terms of cinematic art, Costa Gavras constantly changes the rhythm of the first soundtrack, advancing the film by its development. Like the subject of the movie, the rhythm sometimes speeds up, slows down. A constant tension, conflict, public authorities’ disregard for pre-event reports, trying to portray the event as an accident, showing those who defend peace and democracy as pests that corrupt society, rough sticks that are symbols of fascism, violence and oppressive administrations, successful symbols used, colours and deep dirty relationships. progresses in.

Defending peace “against war, armament, military bases” is objectionable!

Grigoris Lambrakis, who was politically assassinated in May 1963, is an “intellectual-democratic-honest-against-war and armament-humanist-elegant” personality. He is a humanist gynaecology doctor who treats the poor free of charge and distributes the income of the sports associations he founded to those in need. He is a professor at the university. He is among the founders of the only left-wing party in the country. Due to his personality and views, it is considered with certainty that he will win the next elections. Throughout his short political life, he fiercely criticizes war and advocates peace. It opposes NATO, military bases and armament.

“Mold on the vine-ideology in society”

The film begins with a captivating prologue: “Resemblances to real events, to real people, alive or dead, are not accidental. Everything is deliberate.” The images begin to slide, accompanied by Mikis Theodorakis’ wonderfully moving music that draws the audience into the movie. “The letter Z” circulates over the kingdom, military, police, and religious symbols and medals one by one. The camera’s eye then switches to a conference room. A person in formal clothes (who we later learned was the Undersecretary of Agriculture) tells the audience, which includes uniformed generals, colonels, soldiers, the chief of police, and the police, about the mould disease that infested the vine tree. He cites France, which is famous for its wines, as an example in the fight against this disease that destroys the vine tree. They are successful because they spray the vine branches with copper sulfate on a timely and regular basis. “There must be a conference on agriculture!” While thinking, he said, “As in previous years, our planes will be at your disposal in this fight. The disease that haunts the vines is like the ideology that haunts the people. But he ends his speech by saying that the chief of police will open this issue.

“God refuses to light reds”

The uniformed police chief begins his speech by stating that ideology is a disease like a mould and that preventive measures are needed. And he continues: “The first stage occurs in schools. Here the buds are still very young. The second stage happens when they start blooming as college students or workers. The best time to save the sacred tree of national freedom from the disease of ideological mould is military service. A new kind of mould is ravaging our country. This new kind of danger is spreading treacherously. With the “epidemic of ism”, sunspots began to multiply on the golden globe, such as socialism, anarchism, imperialism and communism. God refuses to light up reds. Scientists predict an increase in sunspots. Due to the emergence of hippies and pacifists in some countries such as Italy, France and Scandinavia! I must point out to you high civil servants that we must protect the healthy elements of our society and heal the sick. Tonight the enemy will hold a meeting in our city. But we are not an “ism”. We are a democracy. We will not ban the meeting. We will not hinder the demonstration of the opposition. Along with these healthy antibodies, we must fight the diseases of the vine and society.” And he ends his speech with a Nazi salute.

From this point, Gavras’ fast-paced, suspenseful film begins. He turns into a hectic hustle, keeping up with the music of his country.

“Left mould! Bolshoi Ballet yes!”

The “opposition MP Z” mentioned by the police chief is preparing to make a speech, and the administrators, who are disturbed by his speech, try to prevent Z. For this reason, they intervene in many ways, such as closing the hall, blocking other halls, provoking extremist organizations and the public, punching the deputies by the vigilantes, protesting with demonstrations. Finally, at the suggestion of the colonel, they decide to hold the meeting in the Labor Union hall across from the hotel. But the rough-looking men piling up in front of the hall attack the group that says “We want peace, no to guns, no to NATO” with sticks that symbolize fascism, oppression and violence. They tear down posters with symbols of peace with the words “Have your meeting in Moscow”. Those who came to the meeting said, “We, Russia or America, are against bombs. We want disarmament. While saying no to NATO”, others are using violence by saying “bomb, bomb”. At that time, one of his senators next to Lambrakis, who was waiting anxiously in their hotel, said, “They got us stuck here. Because we want foreign bases to be closed”. He is worried because they have been informed that there will be an assassination, they have applied to the necessary places for protection, but they have not received a satisfactory answer. At the beginning of the film, the police chief and prosecutor, who finished their speech with a Nazi salute, ignored the death threats directed to the doctor by saying “an uncertain, anonymous witness, a speech that has been the guest of generations”. They know that a murder will take place, as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “Red Monday.” While all kinds of violence are used to prevent a left-wing politician from meeting in the square, those who postpone the left ideology attend the Bolshoi Ballet performance from Moscow with their families.

“Why are they attacking peace, not organizations?”

Lambrakis takes the first blow on his way to the hall where he will be speaking. He is hit on the head with a hard object. After the deteriorating deputy rested for a while, he barely made the following speech, which was reflected in the square through loudspeakers:

“They hit me. Why is that? Why do our ideas cause so much violence? Why don’t they like peace? Why don’t they attack other organizations? The answer is simple. Others, nationalists, are used by rulers. And they don’t bother our allies who betrayed us. Our hospital and doctor are missing. But half of the budget goes to military spending. A ball is thrown and a teacher’s monthly salary turns into smoke. That’s why they can’t stand us and our meetings. And they’re hiring thugs to lash out at us and attack us. Too many soldiers around the world, anything that goes in the direction of progress ready to open fire. But our war is their war too. We live in a weak and corrupt society. Stockpiles of atomic bombs equal one tonne of dynamite per man on earth. Based on these facts, they want to prevent us from drawing any obvious political conclusions. But we will raise our voices. We serve the people and the people need truth.”

A new attack is made on the deputy who comes out of the meeting between the slogans of “Destroy the police state, we do not want foreign bases”, banners with peace symbols, protesters and police lined up with sticks. And the deputy who received serious blows in his brain dies.

After Lambrakis’s death, Athens witnessed large-scale protests. Over 500,000 people gather to protest the far-right government. Working under the government’s command, the prosecutor is assigned to the case. They ask the prosecutor to close the case by deducting the phrase “accidental death”. However, our honest and idealistic prosecutor, one of the characters symbolizing the letter Z, continues to investigate the case in depth. It exposes the connections of the palace, government, intelligence, military, politics, far-right radicals and police. It’s not an accident, it’s organized murder. He concludes that the army, police and politics cooperate with the right-wing gangs and the opposition deputy was murdered. He receives threats from the state to close the event. But our brave prosecutor, who revealed with photographs and testimonies how the official authorities and right-wing gangs met and agreed, does not take a step back and calls them all to the court as suspects.

In this process, an honest and impartial journalist, together with the prosecutor, follows the events and people, investigates and documents the relations. It is also a Z. Costa Gavras that draws attention to the importance of the independent judiciary and the press, which stand against the obstacles and threats of a very powerful and lawless government.

There is another thing he draws attention to social corruption. This is one of the most important reasons for the desired free, peaceful and idealist society. Here, he draws attention to the social conscience as well as the free press and the judiciary. For example, the perpetrators of the attack take part in this assassination process with promises such as “not being evicted,” “finding a job”, “looking after their families”. Those in the administration, with the death of the senator, resort to the method of the “image smear” campaign to avoid national reactions.

While we wait, saying, “The prosecutor has personally reached all the evidence and conclusions, they will be punished,” our prosecutor Z, who does not listen to the government’s orders and does not cover up the incident, is dismissed. Journalist Z, who helped uncover the events, is imprisoned. The events that developed after the Lambrakis assassination led to rapid political developments. Prime Minister Konstantin Karamanlis resigned. Then the army takes over. The Marathon Peace Rally has become an annual event in memory of Lambrakis. Later, the political organization led by Mikis Theodorakis played a decisive role in the progressive movement of Greece.

Forbidden names:  Socrates-Tolstoy-Dostoyevsky-Chekhov… Z

At the end of the movie, Costa Gavras lists the prohibitions of the Colonels’ junta one by one. Aristophanes, Socrates, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Ionesco, Albee, Pinter, sociology, Russian toast, long hair, miniskirt, strike, encyclopedia, freedom of the press, modern mathematics, modern art and Z letter joins the objectionable ones.

Innocents, criminals, responsible institutions, relationships, how they are organized and their ends? The answer to these is in the movie with all the details…

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