V for Vendetta
2005 – James McTeigue
Rated R – 132 minutes
Vault Rating: 8
I had thought the Wachowski brothers had shot their load.They spent perhaps 10 years of their lives working on the sci-fi action franchise of our lifetimes, the Matrix films, while making a name for themselves and posing a serious question to this critic: Where could they possibly go from here?
The Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry, have apparently reloaded.Their screenplay for today’s feature, coupled with director James McTeigue’s eye for vibrant color on cold canvases, help transform a comic book vigilante into something way more fun and decidedly more chilling.
The story concerns the freedom fighter of the title who believes violence is a just response to oppression.And as we all know, the difference between being a freedom fighter and a terrorist is a matter of which side you happen to be on.
“V,” as he is known, is some kind of cross between the Phantom of the Opera and the Count of Monte Cristo. He wears a mask in the likeness of Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 famously attempted to blow up Parliament. And, like the count, he lives for vengeance.
His world is one where slogans like “Security Through Unity! Unity Through Faith!” paper the walls of London. Pictures of a supreme chancellor adorn the walls of offices. A hate-monger preaches the official government line on the BTN and people who openly dissent disappear forever. Big Brother, it appears, is watching.
Taking an Orwellian dystopia (Some of my favorite movies are of this type: “1984,” “Metropolis” and “Brazil” to name a few.) and casting a swashbuckler of this type up against an overlord like Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt) creates a natural schism of both character and world view which the film exploits perfectly.
With “V for Vendetta,” Orwell’s mirror has been tilted at a new generation and reflects back images that are at once sickeningly real and dreamily warped in a film that is pointedly seditious.
Countless parallels with today’s world events are insinuated. The plot to destroy Parliament, for example, mirrors the destruction of the World Trade Centers. We learn of a number of horrific tragedies that have caused the British to sacrifice some of their freedoms for security. And we see a ruling caste that has capitalized on the public’s fear in order to consolidate power.
Remember, this is only a movie.
The idea of facts disappearing down the memory hole, of a state controlled free press and of torture chambers — eerily summoning both Orwell’s “Room 101” and photos from Abu Ghraib — lead the viewer inescapably to the land of parable.
To digress, there is a love interest. Natalie Portman portrays Evey, who, as the orphaned daughter of dissidents, manages to get under V’s skin, if not his mask. To Evey, our shadowy anti-hero is a cultured lover of art and music who spouts Shakespeare like an artesian well. Evey carries a heavy load by brightening, ever so slightly, this rather dark film. I can’t think of any film of this type that doesn’t provide the prospect of love at its core. She is inserted as an antidote to V’s (Hugo Weaving) hatred. Whether the antidote works, reader, is for you to discover.
It is now proper to go backward, that we might advance properly.
I had recently begun rereading George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984.” It is, I’ve fancied, an appropriate time to do so. I’ve commenced reconsidering “Fahrenheit 451,” and friends and I have begun to joke darkly about which books we would memorize. (I have dibs on “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut.) The point is we shouldn’t these days be in a society where we are in a position to joke about something like that.
I am put in mind of our great political conventions where our candidates and their supporters take refuge behind riot barriers, razor wire and armed police when V says in today’s movie … Remember, it is just a movie … that “People should not be afraid of their governments.Governments should be afraid of their people.”
Hey! You’re welcome! And so are your comments. You can publish your cinema imaginings by dropping us a line at email@example.com.
Before we go, a couple notices from the new release rack this week:
The Shaggy Dog: Tim Allen tries to live a normal life despite the fact that he sometimes turns into a sheepdog. Also stars Danny Glover and Robert Downey Jr.
Mrs. Harris: 2005 TV Movie stars Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley in a drama/thriller based on the true story of cardiologist Herman Tarnower (author of the Scarsdale Diet) who met his maker at the hands of a jilted lover.