One of the films of 2006 that Therese and I wanted to analyze for WU was V for Vendetta . Based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, the film version was produced under the guidance of Matrix-creators, the Wachowski Brothers, and directed by one of their acolytes, James McTeigue. Before release it generated lots of blog buzz and plenty of controversy. We were expecting a quirky unboxed film loaded with symbolism and kick-butt special effects. Boy, did it deliver this, and in spades.
As always, we watch films through the lens of the novelist. Read on for our observations!
Kath: Man, this movie had me on a rollercoaster. I still don’t know if I loved or hated this film, but it definitely stayed with me for a while. One of the things I was entranced by was the Soviet-style fascist backdrop mapped over ye olde cheery London Town (disclosure: I didn’t read the graphic novel). The filmmakers keep the pace blistering while leaning on the meta-narrative pretty heavily, which is how fear makes people give up their basic rights for safety, but it’s a pact with the devil. A Hobbesian world run amok. What did you think? Was the world building successful for you?
Therese: Oh, yes. It reminded me a little of that TV show that was on a few years back with Jessica Alba, Dark Angel. The world has gone to hell in a futuristic handbasket (an electrified one, no doubt) and its up to our hero and heroine to save the little bits of it they can.
Interesting that America is referenced at the beginning, a country devastated by its own bravado, ignorance and ensuing civil war but hardly ever again after that. I originally thought it was a heavy-handed political statement about some very modern issues involving the U.S., but then in watching the post-movie comments I learned the story was based on a graphic novel written in the mid 90s.
Kath: Yes, Alan Moore wrote the graphic novel as an indictment against Thatcherism. Things really haven’t changed all that much, have they? But I, too, wearied of the heavy-handedness of some of their metaphors. I think the points they were making would have been more successful if they kept the touch light and not having characters like the gay talk show host intone stuff like, “They’re squashing out all beauty and artistry for power and control.” It made the struggle cartoonish. Even though it came from a graphic novel. :-)
Therese: I liked the way the movie made you think about your biases, how one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, for example. Did you root for the protagonists, V and Evey?
Kath: I really liked Evey, and I was rooting for her. Natalie Portman did a superb job transforming Evey from a mouse of a girl with a secret rebellious streak into a full-realized freedom fighter. She could have been loaded with angst about her parents being taken away to the concentration camps for experiments, but I think it was a strong statement that they kept her character an “everyday person” type in spite of her past. I wanted her to overcome her obstacles, and I wanted her to survive.
As for the title character V….sigh. I’m still not sure about him. Hugo Weaving did a terrific job considering he had to act with a mask over his face, taking away a major tool of the actor. I LOVED the fact that the film makers play with the ambiguity that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. But it was really hard not to laugh at poor V….the mask didn’t work for me, nor V’s painfully high-falutin’ dialogue. I began to hate that mask so much I wanted Evey to rip it off….and when she got the chance to do it, she kissed it instead! Auggh! What did you think of their relationship?
Therese: Super interesting. Though there was a hint of sexual tension there, the relationship was really more like parent to child with V protecting Evey, teaching her (sometimes through extremely heavy-handed measures) and ultimately handing her the reigns to his empire.
I didn’t mind his mask, since he really became the extension of Guy Fawkes’ original idea, to fight for freedom, justice and truth. We knew that was lay beneath the mask was the pulpy remnants of a human ravaged by fire. I think to remove the mask would’ve been to imply the vendetta was an ugly one, and that was not the goal of the movie. That smile was perfect, too, since it could look both sincere and mocking, depending on the scene.
I also thought Portman was brilliant, by the way, and keep wondering why she was so appallingly bad in the Star Wars movies, though my money is on bad writing. :)
Tomorrow Therese and I muse about the movie’s overarching theme, and how the movie worked on an emotional level. Don’t miss it!