CULTURE

Costa-Gavras challenges the soul-killing corporate life

Is Costa-Gavras closing a circle? Forty years after «The Sleeping Car Murders» – his first feature film and an exercise in American film noir that differed from everything that followed – the celebrated director presents the story of a serial killer. The subject of his latest film, «Le couperet» (The Ax), is a curious one coming from a filmmaker who has made the relationship between cinema and politics the focus of his life and his work. From «Z» in 1962 to «Amen» in 2002, Costa-Gavras has never stopped pointing fingers, rallying public opinion and challenging the establishment. The director has busied himself with subjects such as non-democratic regimes, shady government organizations and those who challenge freedoms. Even his new serial killer, however, has a cause. He is a high-ranking executive in a paper factor, a quiet family man and an environmentalist who suddenly finds himself downsized. After spending two years on the unemployment line, and driven to desperation, he begins killing off all the people applying for his position at the company. «Purposefully over-the-top, the film is really a metaphor,» the director says. Costa-Gavras will be in Athens for the premiere of «The Ax,» which will be held at Athens College in Psychico on September 15, within the context of the 11th Premiere Nights Athens Film Festival, which has also invited the Greek-French director to receive the Golden Athena award for his contribution to cinema. A frequent visitor to Greece (three years ago he held a presentation of his own work at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival), Costa-Gavras will also be opening the festival, which runs until September 25 and has an especially interesting program of screenings this year. «The Ax,» which has already met with critical acclaim in France is, according to the director, «a pseudo-crime film and a real social drama. The systematic murders, all orchestrated by the main character, have nothing realistic about them. The work environment and competition kill people’s personalities. Therefore, a ‘murder’ is committed, in the metaphorical sense. ‘The Ax,’ therefore, uses immoral means to discuss a subject that is absolutely about morality. Over the course of, or after the screening, people in the audience really ought to consider what they have in common with the killer.» A dark political social comedy is how some have described the film, because there is humor and a subtle irony, despite the clinical detachment with which Costa-Gavras presents this chilling story. The film is based on the eponymous novel by Donald E. Westlake, and it stars Jose Garcia.