The disillusioned Red joke is perhaps Mort Sahlís, "watch out, the regime you overthrow may be your own." Interrogations and confessions ("the highest form of self-criticism") are the chief methods of the Soviet Purges, in 1952 Czechoslovakia a high-ranking functionary (Yves Montand) gets to experience them first hand. Communist cred (years with the Spanish Civil War, the French Resistance, concentration camps) mean nothing to the inquisitors, who keep their subject starved, manacled, and in continuous debilitating motion in an underground cell. The grueling month is visualized by Costa-Gavras as the opposite of the forward-thrust of Z, the torturous circular stasis of greenish brick walls and blinding spotlights and choruses of bellowing accusers. From home there are glimpses of the wife (Simone Signoret) who must accept her husbandís trumped-up guilt since the Party is never wrong, from Moscow thereís the commissioner (Gabriele Ferzetti) who calmly assures that "now we're just recording the facts. The subjective aspects will be dealt with later." Montand gazes at the hammer and sickle on the cap of the guard pounding him, and weeps; in a jaundiced newsreel insert, Stalin smiles and waves from his little garden. Kafka is the apt stylistic note for the tale of the man strangled by the system he believed in erecting, structured as two soul-depleting blocks -- the writing of the fake confession in prisons hidden away from the world, followed by its recitation before the invasive cameras and microphones of the show trial. The repetitious games of incrimination, the debasement of ideals and icons, the pale and emaciated prisoner who has to sit before tanning lamps to look semi-healthy for the judges: itís all such scabrous farce that one defendant canít resist dropping his trousers, to endless gales of despairing laughter. Costa-Gavrasís vision of horror as "a mere formality," experienced by the survivor who returns to Prague in Ď68 to find tanks in the street and graffiti on the wall: "Wake up, Lenin! Allís gone mad!" Cinematography by Raoul Coutard. With Michel Vitold, Jean Bouise, and Laszlo Szabo.
--- Fernando F. Croce