“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.” - Alan Moore, V for Vendetta
Released in March 2006, V for Vendetta managed to sneak past my movie watching radar relatively unnoticed. I couldn’t afford to pay cinema prices, therefore I had planned to watch it when the movie came out on DVD later in the year, but events in my life around that time put watching the latest films to the bottom of my priorities. It is only now, 11 years later, that I have finally paid attention to the film that inspired the symbolic wearing of the Guy Fawkes mask as a symbol of anarchy and resistance to authority.
The film moves swiftly into the plotline without much explanatory dialogue. This is Britain in a dystopian future, Britain IS ruled by curfews, controlling media and an oppressive government. The integral character Evey (Natalie Portman), is a young working class woman, who at the start of the film is seen skipping curfew for a reason that is her own. She is accosted by members of the secret police and her attempts at defending herself seem futile until masked vigilante V (Hugo Weaving) intervenes. He takes her with him to the rooftops to watch the beginning of his ultimate plan unfold, and then they part ways until fate transpires and she assists him in escaping during one of his planned attacks at the television studio where Evey works.
Fearing that Evey will be killed for assisting him, he takes her to his home and informs her that she must be kept his prisoner for a year for her own safety. She manages to find a way to escape WITHOUT her captor (who has become like a friend in a strange way) being caught by the authorities. Unfortunately, that is not the end of Eveys’ ordeal as she becomes integrally embroiled in V’s plot to take down the corrupt leaders and destroy the government, physically and symbolically. (With the late John Hurt playing the evil leader of the government Adam Sutler as masterfully and authentically as he played the lead character and good guy Winston Smith in the film adaptation of Orwell’s 1984)
The film was met with mixed reviews, but I feel the message speaks loud and clear and this for me overtook the crassness of the Hollywood effects and razzmatazz. Watching this film in today’s political climate for the first time now as opposed to when the movie came out in 2006, had me enthralled and slightly frightened for the way society in Britain appears to be slowly moving towards its own dystopian future without most of us realizing it. Advertisements for beauty products that tell us to “be strong” with absolutely no connection to the product they are selling, cigarette packets that order us to “Quit now” instead us of making the choice to give up on our own terms and then there are the government-funded advertisements specifically telling us to “disrespect nobody.”
V for Vendetta has clear parallels with the film 1984 but it offers that little more hope in comparison to the bleakness of George Orwells’ version of a dystopian future.
As someone who has spent the last 10 years reading up on and studying aspects of psychology, albeit not to degree level due to factors out of my control, I have become very aware of the parallels between the film V for Vendetta and how western society seems to be shaping itself. It worries me that life appears to be imitating art. In the movies, we always seem to have our hero (or anti-hero) to save the day, but real life isn’t neatly packaged in the way a Hollywood blockbuster is.
I hope to read the graphic novel at some point as I have heard that the film is watered down to some degree and this film has stirred my psyche into wanting more. All in all, V for Vendetta is a film that has made a statement and an impact and shouldn’t be cast aside lightly.
(Image above is from the film 1984)
“Thoughtcrime is death. Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death. I have committed even before setting pen to paper the essential crime that contains all others unto itself”.
– John Hurt speaking as the character Winston Smith in the film 1984
“I want this country to realize that we stand on the edge of oblivion. I want every man, woman and child to understand how close we are to chaos. I want everyone to remember why they need us!”
– John Hurt speaking as the character Adam Sutler in the film V for Vendetta
In memory of John Hurt
January 22nd 1940 - January 25th 2017
9 out of 10 stars