Sunday, 27 September 2009

Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.

No 418 - V for Vendetta
Director - James McTeigue

I really wanted to start this blog with V's exceptional introductory monologue... however it is far too long for the title bar. So I'm going to put it here:

Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.
Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.

It is a hell of a tongue twister and a beautiful tour through what should be quite a small chapter of the dictionary. It is also a superb introduction to V.
V for Vendetta is a revenge film of ridiculous proportions and V is the ultimate vigilante - going about his mission with an incredible level of zeal and a true single-minded dedication.

It has been a while since I watched this film and even longer since I read the graphic novel and even today, on my third viewing, I was surprised by the story. I think part of me categorises this as a dumb action film. That whilst it isn't Crank, it might fall into the same area as The Matrix (after all the Wachowskis did produce V) - I forget how story rich and how savagely dark the film is.

This is a real dystopian future. Not the fantastical worlds of 12 Monkeys, but a true world where the government has taken over and paranoia and torture is the key to keeping the public in control. The film updates the action of the comic, moving from 80s cold war paranoia and Tory rule to military dictatorship and fear of the war on terror. It is here that the film's bravest and most socking element comes in. The glorification of terrorism.

Let us not beat around the bush, V is a terrorist. Carrying out a number of very public murders and destroying London landmarks in order to create fear into a group of people for his own personal motivation. However, in this film the terrorist is the lesser evil. In this post 9/11 world it is brave and rare to be made to realise that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. It is like when BSG got us to root for the suicide bombers.
To see a horrific act of destruction through the eyes of the destructors, and to get us to empathise. That is a brave brave move.

When the following line was recorded to go into film, it had very different connotations and emotions connected to it then when it was written in 1982.
A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world.

What is truly remarkable about this film is not the controversial (anti-)hero, but the sheer nastiness of the villains. Take Prothero for example, played with perfect snarling hangdog vitriol by Roger Allam, his monologues are so filled with bile and hatred and prejudice that it is disgusting to watch.
The country's complete revulsion of anybody different to them and the ethnic cleansing followed by attacks on foreigners, immigrants, Muslims and homosexuals. It is a nightmare future where every single prejudice that we have fought to try and remove comes tumbling back with force. It is one where mass hysteria is the norm and where rape is used as a weapon. I'm kind of surprised that I saw this at the cinema as a successful date movie, because that really shouldn't be the case.

The persecution on the streets is bad enough, but the subplot about the containment facilities are awful. These emerge through flashbacks which explain (to a degree) what had happened to V in the past. It is never 100% clear what has happened exactly, V is a bit of an enigma. But the allusions to concentration camps are clear and bold. Larkhill was not a nice place to be and V will get his revenge on all who tormented him there.

There is one scene which makes this film. It is the boldest, the bravest, the most harrowing, the most beautiful. The scenes of Evey's torture. Notalie Portman's accent is somewhat ropey in the film (flitting from VERY posh English to a Billie Piper-esque twang) but there is no denying her dedication to the role. From the moment she has her head shaved, through her complete degradation and breakdown, to her emergence as a strong and shocked individual at the end. These scenes are a complete tour de force and allow Portman to show off some serious acting chops.
They also allow us to see more of V's back story, through the tale of one the other inmates at Larkhill at the same time as V. Valerie is a lesbian who is taken away to be experimented on as the government finds the ideal chemical weapon. Her story and her flashbacks are so sad and so truly beautiful. I deny anyone not to have a lump in their throat by the end.
It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses, and apologized to no one.

Finally, I can start to talk about Hugo Weaving. I meant to begin by speaking about his terrific performance but got sidetracked by the violence and horror of the dystopian future. V is an amazing character. He is charming and witty and erudite and fantastically dressed. He lives in the most splendid home filled with exceptional art and medieval grandeur (admittedly the Shadow Gallery in the comic has extra mystique by not having any walls or boundries). The epitome of dandy chappism. He is also completely completely badass! Swooping down roof tops and swinging his daggers with exceptional skill and finesse.
This film even gives us dagger time! Watching the blades slice through rippling air - I know that it is wrong to celebrate violence but the bad guys in this are so... so... BAD they deserve to fall prey to V's mad ninja skills!

What is really impressive about V is that he remains masked for the entire film. Yet, Hugo Weaving manages to pull out an amazing and compelling performance from his limited expressionless face.
It is an excellent and a nuanced performance from a character who relies so much on performance and hiding away.

There are a number of other characters who deserve mention:
  • Adam Sutler, The Excellent John Hurt - Snarling, screaming and snapping at his government, he spends most of the film in complete isolation appearing only on TV screens and only really appears in company to be ridiculed on TV by...
  • Deitrich, the topical news comedy show host. Played by comedy show host du jour... Mr Stephen Fry. I love Stephen Fry and his closeted homosexual, art loving TV personality is wonderfully sad.
  • The elusive Rookwood... A minor character, but an ace little touch because in the shadows Rookwood looks a lot like V For Vendetta's original author, Mr Alan Moore. It is just a shame that Alan Moore is so disgusted by the film adaptations of his work he asks to be struck off the credits.
  • Finally... I'm very amused to find Martin Savage and Guy Henry appearing in small roles. Good old fictional comedy department from the fictional BBC.

And so... I wish to go full circle and finish quite near to where I began and speak about the unusual celebration of terrorism which successfully occurs throughout the film. Although it would be horrific in real life - the grand finale in this film is superb.

It brings goosebumps of joy to watch the Houses of Parliament explode. Maybe it is the cinematography. Maybe because I bloody love Tschaicovsky and I really really love fireworks. So watching it all go off is a delightful moment.

However, the comic's ending is better. For it is better for V to continue in Evey as a continued symbol for the parliament to be scared of and in the film she never dons the mask.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One I love is "People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people"