“V for Vendetta”
It’s that time of year when people head to the polls to cast their ballot. What a wonderful feature to our government, you know? We collectively determine who is running our nation. I might be over-simplifying that and I am not going to even get into lobbyists and special interests groups. But – in the end – we vote our leaders into office. In that vein of thought, I figured I might rattle your brains with a political action-drama film that is based on a graphic novel. “V for Vendetta” is a BRILLIANT work of art! That’s right folks; this isn’t just a film. When it comes to a film being defined as a work of art, it has to meet some very EXCEPTIONAL criteria (because I just wouldn’t call it so otherwise).
“V for Vendetta” is a story about freedom and of course, revenge. It really is focused upon political power and it makes a few really fine statements about the influence the “common man” has. Power, real or perceived, can be taken away at any moment by a disgruntled population. When you stop to think about it, all governments are subject to public approval. If the public doesn’t like their government, they will and ALWAYS have revolted. Some people in this world seem to think that because they are in a seat of political power that they are “untouchable”. Nothing could be further removed from the truth. If a government pushes the limits of what its public will tolerate, you can bet your ballots will be turned into bullets. When that happens, historians will call it “rebellion” or “revolution”. I call it “the righting of society”. Society needs a change and when that need is strong enough, action MUST follow. In my opinion, governments are nothing without the support of its people.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this film, you may be wondering what I am talking about? “V for Vendetta” is the tale of a near-future in England wherein a dictatorship has risen to power through the use of censorship and terrorism against its own people. Of course, this latter point is the crux of the story – hence, the reason for a vendetta. It is the story of one man, a victim of the evil of this plot of a dictatorship to overthrow the established government and take control for itself. That one man mounts a series of attacks aimed at the specific people responsible for the atrocities committed by the dictatorship. In a brilliant move of storytelling, the man is a bit theatrical and seeks to express the human condition to the masses without the interference of censorship. In other words, he plays banned music in forbidden areas, he stays up past curfew, he steals works of art before they can be destroyed, and he watches movies that the government doesn’t want you to see. He’s a rebel and an artist, but he is also the moral conscious of the film. Through him, we are exposed to the villainy of censorship and what happens to a society when they agree to let others do their thinking for them.
The main character is the faceless V. He is called a madman, a crazy person, a genius, and a terrorist of sorts. V is out for revenge, not so much for himself (although he has plenty of cause) as it is for someone else and what was done to that person. That person is a complete stranger to V. However, her death symbolizes all that is wrong with world in which V lives. It lights a fire within V to not simply seek out those responsible and punish them, but rather to alert to public to the need for change. He wants to complete a mission by another rebel that was never completed hundreds of years ago. That mission was the plan of Guy Fawkes and other conspirators which would become known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. V’s plan to resurrect the Gunpowder Plot is meant to inspire the people of the nation to rebuild their government. V wants them to identify want is wrong with their nation and change it. Will blowing up a building really accomplish that feat? As V would explain it, “the building is a symbol, just as the act of blowing it up is a symbol.”
Far too few movies can provoke such profound thoughts. “V for Vendetta” is a success on so many levels that it is hard to imagine that more critics don’t put this film on a pedestal. The film tells a political tale, but also a story of revenge. It reminds me in a way of the line from “The Dark Knight” about how a hero lasting long enough to become hated by the people he protects. V is not a hero in a classic sense. He is out to overthrow the totalitarian government that has inflicted grave injustices upon himself and others. Within the film, V references another classic tale of revenge: “the Count of Monte Cristo”. I know that movie (and its 2 remakes) and the original novel well. Here is where the film achieves true greatness!
V becomes allies with a hapless woman caught up in his rebellious plot. Her name is Evey – another fine performance by the greatly underrated Natalie Portman. Evey becomes the real story of “V for Vendetta” for she is both victim and hero. She is taught through her alliance with V to become utterly free of fear. She begins as a weak person and ends the film as its strongest character. She provides that truly grounded-in-reality, human experience that we experience the story of the film through. V may be the main character but Evey is our guide. She rises above fear of the powers that be with the aid of V, and in the end she helps V to remember he is after all human. Evey and V’s relationship is a love story within this political tale of revenge, and with it, the film transcends just being an entertaining action film/thriller. It becomes a work of art.
I think I make that claim because I don’t ever recall a more poignant tale about politics and freedom. “V for Vendetta” could have easily become some action flick with a political backdrop. It could have been a romance story with a revenge backdrop. It could have been a revenge story that is clouded by politics and a love story. It was none of those things. It rose above what it could have been because it shows what one man is willing to do for the cause of freedom, and what one woman can teach a man bent on revenge about love. This is a positively brilliant movie because it gets me thinking about the value of expression…and freedom…and love…and revenge…every time I watch it!
So, in the immortal words of the Gunpowder Plot, I ask you to watch this film and “Remember, remember the 5th of November, the Gunpowder, treason, and plot. I can think of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.