V for Vendetta (2005)
V for Vendetta is a science fiction film made by the people who brought us The Matrix series and is based on the 1982 to 1985 graphic novels (long-form limited-run comics targeted to an adult audience) written by Alan Moore with the art of David Lloyd.
The world that this story inhabits is an alternate future United Kingdom. A series of events, including war and a plague-like disease has crippled most of the world, but miraculously left Great Britain largely untouched. Well, except for the fact that the country is now run as a fascist state that is a curious cross between Hitler Germany and Orwell’s Big Brother.
The basics: a masked man with a mission to overthrow an oppressive government befriends a scared nobody of a girl who is stronger than she realizes.
Trivia: This release of this 2005 film was postponed six months because of the London subway bombing.
Dystopia of V
Science fiction has a long tradition of showing dystopic futures where technology has been abused and society has suffered. Some of the best science fiction books and films such as Blade Runner, The Matrix, The Terminator, Alien, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World are set in dystopian futures. As a dystopic warning film, this movie works.
To understand the world of V, one must look at the time in which the story was written. The early 1980s was the height of the worldwide AIDS panic. Popular culture was dominated by extremes; either the rampant commercialism of Dynasty and Dallas or the nihilistic influences of such films as The Day After and The Hunger or musical artists as Joy Division and the Sex Pistols.
With that in mind, the producers attempted to update the story for today’s audiences. They partially succeed. But at it essence, V for Vendetta is a child of the 1980s with all of its neuroses intact.
Too bad it took almost 25 years for film technology to catch up and be able to do this classic science fiction story justice.
The art (and politics) of V
Back when I was in college – which coincidentally was in the 1980s, a professor challenged me and my fellow students to come up with one sentence that defined the difference between what is – and is not – art.
It took us more than one class period, but eventually we came up with a workable answer:
Art is the work product of a person that evokes an emotion in the audience whether they enjoy it or not.
Now, I’ve later learned that that definition of “art” doesn’t apply 100% of the time. But in the case of V for Vendetta, it does.
This movie is disturbing. It raises issues an audience going to a sci-fi action film will not be expecting. It asks disturbing questions of the audience. It deals frankly with issues and uncomfortable themes seemingly ripped from today’s headlines such as the elimination of gay rights, the use of religion as a shield for violence and supposedly-neutral television news organizations spouting partisan rhetoric.
I firmly believe that rabid conservatives will hate this film. They will probably mistakenly see it as a leftist attack on George W. Bush and his allies in Europe. That is naive being that the story was conceived in the early 1980s when the current President was busy running the Arbusto oil and gas exploration company in Texas.
Likewise, I firmly believe rabid leftists also will find much to hate in this film. Lines such as “Governments should be afraid of the people” and ruminations on the lack of an armed general public are enough to put a chill in the heart of most dyed-in-the-wool liberals.
This is because at its core, V for Vendetta is neither liberal or conservative – it is a film with a Libertarian ideal. Yes, Libertarian with a capital “L.”
The acting in V
Natalie Portman (Star Wars) as “Evey” and Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire, FearDotCom) as “Finch” carry this film. It is through their eyes that the audience discovers both the depths of fear and the true consequences of life in a totalitarian society.
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) provides the voice of V, the mysterious masked man that tries to overthrow the government. Somehow he pulls off what may seem impossible, making a sympathetic and tragic character of a man in a mask that looks like a humorous cross between Batman‘s Joker and the Phantom of the Opera.