British actor Sir John Hurt has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 77. He had starred in more than 200 films and television series over a career spanning six decades. He was Oscar-nominated for his star turn in “The Elephant Man” and his supporting role in “Midnight Express”. He earned notable credits for his part as village doctor on the island of Kefalonia in Greece. Dr Iannis‘ daughter Penelope Cruz falls in love with an Italian military officer during World War Two in film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” (2001).
Over the years I have watched …I cannot count how many the films in which he starred: The Elephant Man, Midnight Express, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), Scandal, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, just to name a few. The list is long, extremely long.
But most of all, I hated to love him in his role as dictator High Chancellor Adam Sutler in the dystopian political thriller V for Vendetta.
Although the film was produced in 2006, a Greek television channel started to broadcast it quite frequently from 2012 to 2014.
And every time the film was on my TV screen I would watch it as if I was hypnotized.
Apart from powerful references to totalitarianism in the film, I personally was shocked by the fear mongering tactics displayed. You must remember that especially after 2010, Greeks were exposed to a brutal and unprecedented fear mongering campaign aiming to break the nation and force them accept all strict austerity measures imposed by the international lenders and the government.
Although the humiliation of the country had started already in late autumn 2009, when then Prime Minister George Papandreou was touring Europe seeking financial aid for the economically collapsing Greece and thus exposing our nation as notorious “corrupt” and international media were brand-marking us as “lazy” Southerners living on the cost of hard-working Northerners.
Nevertheless, these were the reasons I started to blog as Keep Talking Greece in march 2010. To have Greeks tell their own story.
But this first wave of “anti-Greek campaign” was not the reason why I hated to love John Hurt as psycho-tyrant Adam Sutler. It was what followed May 2010 with the signature of the first bailout and after February 2012 with the signature of the second one.
How many times did I watch Adam Sutler’s horrifying speech “Why they need us!” and draw my parallels to our Greek real life back then? To the bombardment of fear we were exposed to, to the psychological oppression.
Adam Sutler speech transcription*
“I want this country to realize that we stand on the edge of oblivion. I want everyone to remember why they need us!
My fellow Englishmen: tonight our country, that which we stand for, and all we hold dear, faces a grave and terrible threat.
This violent and unparalleled assault on our security will not go undefended… or unpunished. Our enemy is an insidious one, seeking to divide us and destroy the very foundation of our great nation. Tonight, we must remain steadfast. We must remain determined. But most of all, we must remain united. Those caught tonight in violation of curfew will be considered in league with our enemy and prosecuted as a terrorist without leniency or exception. Tonight, I give you my most solemn vow: that justice will be swift, it will be righteous, and it will be without mercy.”
It wasn’t just Adam Sutler holding Britain in his iron grip, it was the creditors and the Greek governments supported by the national and the international mainstream media, all determined to enforce neo-liberal politics.
Protests against the bailout agreements had already started in summer 2010, just weeks after the first bailout was signed. Protests were often cracked with violent police force, riots broke out, police used massively tear gas and batons. The more the austerity measures, the more the protests, the riots, the police crackdown.
And it wasn’t just the anti-authoritarians breaking each marble tile at Syntagma square outside the Greek parliament. It was thousands of normal, average citizens, private sector employees, civil servants, bank workers, teachers, unionists, housewives, who would come outside the Parliament and raised their voices.
United they stood, but the governments stood also united against the protesters.
The fear mongering tactict reached its peak after the conservative-socialist coalition New Democracy/PASOK came into power in summer 2012. The campaign was carried out by mainstream media in print, television, radio and the social media the majority of Greeks had just discovered.
Aim was to terrify the public about what would happen if the thousands of people they would not support the austerity.
The name of the fear creating word was “Grexit“, the exaggeration of its impact and its repetition thousands of time per day, a modern Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of thousands of people, impending catastrophe and doom.
I can tell you that it worked. But not in the sense the government had hoped for. Hundreds of people stopped watching the news on television or buy newspapers. Thousands voted for left-wing Syriza in 2015 and sent the fear-mongers home. And some unfortunately fell in deep depression and never recover.
Rest in Peace, John Hurt. Thank you for all the great movie times you gave us.