V for Vendetta is a 2006 action–thriller directed by James McTeigue and produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers, who also wrote the screenplay. The film is an adaptation of the graphic novel V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Set in London, England in a near-future dystopian society, the film follows the mysterious V, a freedom fighter seeking to effect sociopolitical change while simultaneously pursuing his own violent personal vendetta. The film stars Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond, Hugo Weaving as V, Stephen Rea as Inspector Finch and John Hurt as Chancellor Sutler.
The film was originally scheduled for release by Warner Bros. Pictures Friday, November 4, 2005 (a day before the 400th Guy Fawkes Night), but was delayed; it opened on March 17, 2006. Alan Moore, facing his disappointment in both From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, refused to view the film and subsequently distanced himself from it. The filmmakers removed many of the anarchist themes and drug references present in the original story and also altered the political message to what they believed would be more relevant to a 2006 audience.
In the near future, Britain is ruled by a totalitarian regime, led by the Norsefire party. Evey Hammond, a young woman, is rescued from harassment by state police by a masked vigilante who introduces himself as “V”. V then takes Evey to a rooftop location to witness his spectacular destruction of the Old Bailey, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The regime explains the incident to the public as a planned demolition, but this is shown to be a lie when V takes over the state-run British Television Network (BTN) the same day. He broadcasts a message urging the people of Britain to rise up against the oppressive government on November 5 (Guy Fawkes Night); one year from that day, when V says he will destroy the Houses of Parliament.
Evey, who works at the BTN, helps V to escape, but in doing so, puts herself in danger. V saves Evey by bringing her to his lair, where she is told that she must stay in hiding with him for a year. She reluctantly stays for some time, but upon learning that V is killing government officials, she escapes to the home of one of her superiors, Gordon Deitrich, who is also a good friend (and, unlike in the comic, a homosexual who has hidden his true nature for fear of being arrested). However, the state police raid Gordon’s home shortly afterwards in response to Gordon satirizing the High Chancellor in his talk show. Evey is captured as she tries to escape. She is incarcerated and tortured for days, including having her head shaved, finding solace only in notes left by another prisoner, Valerie. Evey is eventually told that she will be executed unless she reveals V’s whereabouts. An exhausted Evey says she would rather die, and, surprisingly, is then released. V then reveals himself to have been her captor. Though at first angry against him for this torture, Evey comes to realize that having faced her own death, she can now live without fear. She leaves V, promising to return before November 5.
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Finch, while investigating V’s activities, learns how Norsefire came to power, and about V’s origins. Twenty years previously, Britain had suffered from war and terrorism due to their assistance in the War on Terror. The socially-conservative and openly fascist Norsefire party led a reactionary purge to restore order; so-called enemies of the state disappeared during the night. The country was deeply divided over these events until a bioterrorist attack occurred, killing about 100,000 people (80,000 to be exact according to an article Finch is seen reading on his office computer). A pharmaceutical company owned by Norsefire soon discovered a cure to the virus, netting them vast wealth from its distribution. This wealth, combined with the fear generated by the attack, allowed Norsefire to silence all opposition and win the next election by a landslide. With the silent consent of the people, Norsefire turned Britain into a bigoted totalitarian police state, with their leader Adam Sutler as High Chancellor.
However, the attack had actually been engineered by Norsefire as a plot to gain power. The virus – along with its cure – had been engineered through human experimentation on “social deviants” and political dissidents at Larkhill detention centre. Among them was the man who would become V. Although all the other test subjects died from the experiments, he gained heightened mental and physical abilities at the cost of significant physical and mental disfigurement. These abilities enabled V to destroy the centre and escape, vowing to take revenge on Norsefire’s regime.
From this revelation, the inspector predicts the chain of coming events. Narrated by him, he explains the brilliance of V’s plan. His manipulation, hidden agenda, and finally the shipping out hundreds of thousands of Guy Fawkes masks and cloaks to homes throughout Britain. The sheer number of these masks means anyone wearing one is effectively unidentifiable despite constant video surveillance, enabling people to act anonymously for the first time since Norsefire came to power. One man wears his mask while committing a crime, robbing a store and yelling “Anarchy in the U.K.” as he departs; a reference to the Sex Pistols song as well as to the V of the comic book who thought himself more of an anarchist than a freedom fighter. A young girl wears her mask while committing peaceful protest, spray-painting V’s symbol over suitable targets such as Norsefire posters, and is eventually shot by one of the secret police. The shooter is then lynched by angry citizens regardless of his badge and gun; a catalyst for further rebellion.
As November the fifth nears, V’s various schemes cause chaos in Britain and the population grows more and more intolerant and subversive towards government authority. On the eve of November 5, Evey again visits V, who shows her a subway train that he has filled with explosives in order to destroy Parliament through an explosion in the abandoned London Underground. He delegates the destruction of Parliament to Evey, believing that the ultimate decision was not his to make, but hers. He then leaves to meet Party leader Creedy, who, as part of an earlier agreement, has agreed to bring V the Chancellor in exchange for V’s surrender. Creedy kills the Chancellor in front of V, but V does not surrender. He takes a barrage of bullets from a dozen men, and remains standing thanks to a hidden armour plate he is wearing and his super human strength gained from the experiment. He then proceeds to kill Creedy’s men before they can reload, then strangles Creedy himself despite being shot six more times – just as he promised. V, mortally wounded in the fight, returns to Evey. He confesses his love to her, thanks her, and then dies. Evey then places his body upon the train with the explosives (in the graphic novel he asked on his deathbed to be placed in the train, as he wanted a viking funeral, but no mention of this request is made in the film).
Evey is about to send the train down the track, when she is discovered by Inspector Finch. However, Finch, having learned much about the corruption of the Norsefire regime, allows Evey to proceed. Meanwhile, thousands of Londoners, all wearing Guy Fawkes masks, march on Parliament to watch the event. Because Creedy and the Chancellor are dead, the military stands down in the face of a civil rebellion. Parliament is destroyed by the explosion. On a nearby rooftop Evey and Finch watch the scene together, and Finch asks who V was. Evey answers by saying that he is all the people of Britain (The camera shows the crowd again as they remove their Guy Fawkes masks and reveal characters from the film, including deceased characters such as the young girl, Gordon, Valerie and Ruth).
Comments from political sources
V for Vendetta deals with issues of race, sexuality, religion, totalitarianism, and terrorism. Its controversial story line and themes have, inevitably, made it the target of both criticism and praise from sociopolitical groups.
Several anarchist groups have rejected the film, while others have used it as a means to promote anarchism as a political philosophy. On April 17, 2006 the New York Metro Alliance of Anarchists (NYMAA) protested DC Comics and Time Warner, accusing it of watering down the story’s original message in favour of violence and special effects. David Graeber, an anarchist scholar and former professor at Yale University, was not upset by the film. “I thought the message of anarchy got out in spite of Hollywood.” However, Graeber went on to state: “Anarchy is about creating communities and democratic decision making. That’s what is absent from Hollywood’s interpretation.”
Despite the lack of acceptance by some anarchists, the film has brought renewed interest to Alan Moore’s original story, as sales of the original graphic novel rose dramatically in the United States. According to Publishers Weekly, by end of the March 2006 V for Vendetta was the number one graphic novel and number four fiction trade paperback at Barnes & Noble and was the number one graphic novel and the number three book on the overall bestseller list at Amazon.com.
Several libertarians, including members from the Mises Institute’s LewRockwell.com, see the film as a positive depiction in favour of a free society with limited government and free enterprise. They cite the state’s terrorism as being of greater evil and rationalized by its political machinery, while V’s acts are seen as “terroristic” because they are done by a single individual. Justin Raimondo, the libertarian editor of Antiwar.com, praised the film for its sociopolitical self-awareness and saw the film’s success as “helping to fight the cultural rot that the War Party feeds on”.
In the United States, several conservative Christian groups were critical of the film’s portrayal of Christianity and sympathetic portrayal of homosexuality and Islam. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, called V for Vendetta “a vile, pro-terrorist piece of neo-Marxist, left-wing propaganda filled with radical sexual politics and nasty attacks on religion and Christianity”. Don Feder, a conservative columnist, has called V for Vendetta “the most explicitly anti-Christian movie to date” that “combines all of the celluloid left’s paranoid fantasies”. Film critic Richard Roeper dismissed these sentiments on the television show Ebert & Roeper saying that V’s terrorist label is applied in the movie “by someone who’s essentially Hitler, a dictator.” Meanwhile, LGBT commentators have praised the film for its positive depiction of gays, with writer Michael Jensen calling the film “one of the most pro-gay ever”.
David Walsh from the World Socialist Web Site criticizes V’s actions as “antidemocratic” and cites the film as an example of “the bankruptcy of anarcho-terrorist ideology” stating that because the people have not played any part in the revolution, they will be unable to produce a “new, liberated society.”
This movie is damn interesting, at least to me – well, I have to admit the fact that it is quite an effort to grasp the meaning behind every words or expressions made by V, considering the fact that I’m not very good in English. Nevertheless, after more than 20 times of watching this movie, I do understand almost every piece of the movie – very interesting.
Well, to what extent I love this persona – to the extent that I’m choosing to use his masks as representation of my identity in my blog profile and my friendster account – needless to say, I’m a die hard fan of this movie and of course, V.
I know that it is a bit too late to write about this but I hope for those who missed the chance of watching this – this is a must see movie!, for a political driven people, at least.
So, enjoy watching – make sure to get the original copy, because I have one, hahaha…