Or “V for Versatility”?
Indeed, when it doesn’t warn about the risk of totalitarianism pending over democracies, through the Orwellian depiction of a Britain ruled by a Big Brother-like figure, yelling orders on a giant wall-size screen, and played by John Hurt,”V” is a captivating cat-and-mouse chase between the rebels and the armed hands of the Law, characterized by two opposites: Stephen Rea as the good cop Finch and Tim Piggot-Smith as Creedy, the overzealous fascist with an ugly mug.
Of course, the main attraction of the film is the titular V, that justice warrior hiding behind the now-iconic Guy Fawkes’ mask and signing, like a modern-day Zorro, all his deeds with the mark V. As easy with words as he is with knives, V is a really fascinating creation we owe to the genius of comic-book artist Alan Moore. He makes his entrance when a young woman, coincidentally named Evey (Natalie Portman), breaks the curfew and is assaulted by two members of a local militia named ‘Fingermen’. V doesn’t believe in coincidences and sees in Evey the light of hope to shine on the future generations. Together, they meet on the 5th of November, and as a homage to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Catholics attempted to destroy the House of Parliament, V orchestrates the destruction of the Old Prison.
And with 1812 Tchaikovski Overture as an accompaniment, “orchestrates” is the right word. The opening scene sums up what makes “V for Vendetta” a great entertainment, it is both visually and intellectually captivating. It is the kind of experiences that urge you to go to Wikipedia so some extra knowledge can make the plot a little more understandable, and sometimes, plausible. For instance, I live in France where, recently, the government revealed the existence of a big database containing 60 Millions of names, which means the entire French population. This comes within the framework of the fight against terrorism but when you think deeper, you realize that a government will always have a “good reason”. In “V for Vendetta”, we discover the extents of the tyranny: banning and killing homosexuals, Muslims, communist or atheists, and it is revealed near the end that it started with a ‘virus’ plot.
I don’t see Illuminati everywhere, I know that some conspiracy theories are absurd but they shouldn’t be used as an alibi against those that make sense and can be proved. The merit of James McTeigue’s film is not to denounce something that might happen but to tell us that it might happen. The film was made in 2005, after the September 11 attacks, but the events prove them right, I just love a part where Finch, disillusioned, know that things will go out of control, starting with an incident that will give an excuse for the government to bring the army. That’s how the Arab Springs begun and today, it changed the map of the world, for better and for worse, the worse is that it planted the seed of terrorism and Islamophobia in European countries. If there ever is a Third World War, it would be ignited by these two elements.
I just read a complaint from a IMDb user about the positive way the Quran was depicted, and I was wondering if that comment didn’t prove that hatred was already marching in. It’s very interesting that a character played in the film was killed because he had a Quran, if you look at the perception of Islam today, due to events that are certainly not caused by the vast majority but a fanatic minority manipulated by foreign groups and God knows who, you’ll see that we’re not far from this reality. Ironically, for all its positive portrayal of Muslims as victims or camp-candidates (a similitude shared with the other visionary Sci-fi movie “Children of Men”), religion is painted in a negative light, starting with the Bishop portrayed as a filthy pedophile.
The standing the films seems to take is that the first victims will be minorities and the film even includes a poignant lesbian romance in the story. But who knows, maybe the real dictatorship will come from hyper capitalism that would ban every form of spirituality. The fluidity of the plot sometimes derails in order to make a political statement, and I wish the film took more time to be a political satire than a Manichean thriller. It is also ambiguous in the way it denounces a form of totalitarian violence while portraying violence as the means to an end. The most glorious moment of the film, was the magnificent street marching with all London inhabitants wearing the Fawkes’ mask, and when the soldiers had surrendered, V had virtually won.
So, did we need to see Big Ben destroyed? The people had seized the power, it was a revolution per se, and by inspiring them, the figure of V has achieved more than any other terrorist attack. But it felt like the director needed to end the film in a blaze of glory, and close the loop. It was spectacular but a tad predictable while something less flashy could have been more meaningful. “V for Vendetta” is never boring but it needlessly overplays the effects although it had everything to blow your mind, even the last speech by Natalie Portman gives you the perfect idea about the character, he’s an idea precisely.
And this is indeed an idea that prevailed, as the Guy Fawkes mask became the inspiration for the “Anonymous” group, creating a case where fiction preceded reality, and underlined its own prophetic aspect. The film isn’t flawless but it is a must see in our difficult times, and I’m glad I could finally review it 11 years after its release and 11 years before the time these events will happen, now in 2016, on the 5th of November.