V FOR VENDETTA: Saw this yesterday and, while it was a bit slow, it was a sobering film to see as we enter into the fourth year of the fruitless Iraq war. In the film, Hugo Weaving portrays the dandy terrorist V(who dresses up as Guy Fawkes, the 17th century anarchist hero hanged for his attempt to blow up Parliament), who is determined to bring down the fascist government that has taken over the UK. The film is set some 20 or 30 years in the future and America has fallen into civil war and returned its sovereignty to the UK, which has been taken over by religious extremists. Homosexuals and dissidents are shipped off to concentration camps, many subjected to horrific medical experiments. Other religions are banned, art and books are burned and the state controls television and its output.

Natalie Portman plays Evey, the daughter of freedom fighters who died in the camps when the country was being overtaken by the new regime, led by the sneering Chancellor (John Hurt coming full circle after playing meek Winston in 1984). V saves Evey from government police when they capture her out after curfew, and enlists her to help in his plan to take down the government. He blows up the Old Bailey in a spectacular attack, complete with fireworks and the 1812 Overture blaring from speakers across London. V takes over British television and encourages the complacent citizenry to rise up and recognize the oppression they are living under, which has been propagated by fear. Does that sound familiar?

V dispatches members of the Chancellor's cabinet, while Evey vacillates between becoming a terrorist and sinking back into her old life as a secretary. When Evey is picked up the police, head shaved and thrown in jail, she discovers the notes left by a lesbian woman who died in the cell. The woman's story is moving and shows how religious extremists and fear begin to break down society and homosexuals are ultimately shipped off to camps and jail. Evey emerges ready to fight. It's really only at this moment does the film even remotely resemble The Matrix (the film was written by the Wachowski Brothers and directed by James McTiegue, who was that trilogy's second unit director), as V and a group of state policemen face off in an abandoned Underground station. V is nifty with knives and the fight scene is brilliantly choreographed.

V's ultimate plan is to turn the populace against its oppressors. He chillingly tells Evey as he prepares to send an bomb-laden Tube train to destroy the House of Parliament that "people don't need buildings...they need hope." You can't help but think of the World Trade Center and Sept. 11 throughout the film. What's really frightening is the intercut scenes of UK residents who seem to be living normal lives and carrying on, although they recognize the government is lying to them. Previous terrorist attacks (at least one of which was perpetrated by the government) have put fear in the citizenry and they appear to be happy living under totalitarian rule and giving up personal freedoms if it means no one else dies.

Watching V for Vendetta, you realize you are sympathizing with the terrorist and encouraging him to act. The Chancellor, spouting his religious dogma and totally dependent on his cabinet of yes men, seems not unlike Bush. An ongoing war -- which is never identified -- and the terrorist attacks keep the populace quiet and at bay. I'm sure many conservative, Christian fundamentalist whack jobs will see the film as more liberal propaganda, but for the rest of us it should send a chill up our spine at how easily this fictional world could become reality...and, in some ways, already has. I wish America could adopt V's motto: People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.

As of Monday, 2,316 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Estimates of Iraqi dead range from about 30,000 to more than 100,000. And there is no end in sight...

Comments

jenni said…
I forget who said it, but some philosopher said that the wars of the 21st century would be religious wars. The truth of that statement is frightening. Religion is all fine and dandy, but it too often becomes the premise for hate and makes targets of those who do not fully submit to its philosophy.
Charles said…
I just wrote about this film today too. I need to see it again. Thanks for your thoughtful post.
Teamaster said…
VENDETTA has been a favorite graphic novel of mine since early high school. I'm an Alan Moore fan (and somewhat of a purist), so the few films that have been adapted from his works have disappointed me greatly. FROM HELL was an altered, watered-down disgrace of a film hardly like the epic comic, for instance. (Moore has bitterly rejected those films as well as this one. Then again, he's yet another wealthy socialist who bitches but cashes those checks. Heh.) :)

I haven't yet seen the film version, but I've gotten detailed reports and I've interrogated folks to figure out comic-to-film differences and similarities.

A lot was changed.

Though a Moore fan, I dioverge from his premises quite a lot. The regime shown in this story is rather simplistic and typical - more based on iconic fascist power than the more prevalent, far-reaching "Leftist" leviathans in recent history. They're all collectivists and therefore logically conclusive thugs.

I've discussed VENDETTA quite extensively, written about it, and incorporate my insight into dystopian satire/literature/film into most of my metaphysical writings. But since I'm pressed for time, I'll just say that V is not to be ultimately respected. His implied (propounded in the book) anarchism is damned silly. Anarchism sets Humanity back to the "state of nature" or "the law of the jungle," which means might makes right - and justifies despots like Norsefire England in the story.

Plus, I think his original extermination of gays and blacks and Communists idea (changed for the film) is off-base, according to my extensive study and understanding of totalitarianism, political winds, and current events. Communists are now hip and only straw men punched by blowhard Hannity types (without understanding and admitting the REAL scourge of the Mao's, the Satlins, the Che's, etc.). And STate incarceration based on sexuality is certainly not plausible right now, despite particular bigotry.

I think the camp inmates of the future will be mainly political dissidents - gays, straights, blacks, Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, hippies, yuppies. Mankind has shifted from the genetic deterministic aspects, through economic ideology, to a more perfect lust for Statism and consolidated power (much more akin to Oceania in Orwell's 1984 with bits of Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD (minus the eugenics).

I prescribe this: People should not fear their governments - and governments should not fear their people. It should be a contract obligation: governments PROTECTING rights and the Constitution rather than dealing them out - but also the mob not always deciding temporary policy or undermining their own liberty by shattering all infrastgructure through French Revolution-style insanity.

V, though cool in many respects, is a psychopath. He tortures Evey to "free her mind." HE has a singular, vengeful purpose under which all else is subordinate. If there is any hope of sensible action, it might rest in Finch (depending on how the film depicted him). V's extremism might have taught him something about limits on both sides - and he could carry that insight to others.

More another time.
Teamaster said…
Please forgive all the typos. Hasty.

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