Z

A beautifully satirical political drama focusing on the assassination of a pacifist politician. With the tone of something like Doctor Strangelove, it unfortunately remains strikingly relevant today.

The film starts with the armed forces of the state sitting around talking about how to get rid of the corrupting influence of this increasingly popular politician who stands for peace and nuclear disarmament. Obviously they are not monsters, and this is a democracy, so they will graciously permit him to speak at his rally. They will just obviously ensure that he gets to experience the consequences of his actions.

What I like about this is it is not overly characaturish, while still dealing with universally recognisable tropes in the theatre of political oppression. Meaning this is no Punch and Judy show between evil baddies and noble goodies, where one lamps the other. Instead, everyone in this acts in their own interest, and are simply lined up like dominoes by the regime and allowed to fall in the way expected.

The polis don’t just blow Z’s head off like in some tinpot dictatorship, no! This is a civilised democracy after all, and the opposition must be seen to have the same chance as anyone. But if this guy loves peace so much, let’s see how much he likes it when the polis practice pacifism when the fash show up.

The trouble comes when a local magistrate doesn’t seem to understand how this works. At first in fact, he seems irked that the polis haven’t done a good enough job at covering their tracks, that he’s going to be caught out with such obvious, unignorable facts contradicting the police’s official version of events.

Added to this is a local reporter who took a chance on covering the rally rather than the swanky Bolshoi ballet event that night, and thus was one of the few on the scene for the assassination. He now feels he has an exclusive, and digs around to daily find a new angle to keep himself on the front page. Again, he is not billed as some angel of the fourth estate. He’s frequently unethical and wholly self-serving. It just so happens that on this occasion, it lines up with uncovering the truth.

Between the pair of them, they uncover an embarrassment of evidence showing police collusion and potentially instigation of the assassination, but the journey there is hilarious with subtle wit and acerbic truths.

Deeply recognisable even today. The obvious implication of, “Don’t you know how this all works?” only shows up how ludicrous it would be to the audience were they to actually bring those responsible to justice.

It’s a more than 50-year-old film, but it showed to a sold-out audience tonight that laughed uproariously at how identifiable it all was.