1969 – Directed by Costa-Gavras
The period of the late 60s – early 70s was clearly pivotal in the merging of the bleak political landscape into popular entertainment. Unlike The Battle of Algiers, which had a more art house audience in mind, Z was designed to work as a more standard suspense-thriller. Almost certainly influential on New Anerican Cinema (though perhaps the other way around as well), Z is also perhaps an early entry into political “downer” cinema. Unlike a Hitchcock film, which it shares some conventional elements with, we are not going to get a tidy, moral re-alignment of the universe.
Costa-Gavras pulls no punches that the film is meant as an indictment of the political coup in Greece in 1963, and turns the standard “any relation to persons living or dead is coincidental” on its head: he categorically declares it is not at all a coincidence. This certainly draws us in, if for no other reason than by the level of surprise.
The movie remains timeless, especially in the way it portrays how a contingent of the working class may be all too willing to act as “knights” for the cause against perceived “societal threats” (in this case, pacifists), and are equally willing to take the fall for powerful men who in fact see them only as pawns.
Some things simply never change.