On the heels of The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers and Agent Smith released V for Vendetta in March 2006, an alternate reality sci-fi thriller, starring Natalie Portman and Huge Weaving (Agent Smith). V for Vendetta strives to be a politically relevant and thought-provoking film with many parallels to Orwell’s 1984. However, the infusion of a couple superfluous story lines makes what is otherwise a truly excellent film into a very good one worthy of a couple views.
The film is set in London, in the not-too-distant future. A totalitarian government has used fear to manipulate the British population into giving up all control, as a new position of “High Chancellor” is created and privacy is simply eliminated. The protagonist, V, played by Hugo Weaving is the result of the government looking for a cure to a deadly virus by human experimentation. V was one of the few survivors of an explosion at the detention center where he was held. His experiences in this prison fueled his personal vendetta against certain individuals of the government as well as everything they stand for. “What was done to me was monstrous. – V And they created a monster. – Evey”. Thus, he becomes V, a terrorist to few, a freedom fighter to many.
During V’s first attack he rescues a young woman, Evey Hammond (Portman) from the secret police. Evey is accused of being an accomplice, prompting V to bring her under his wing and empower her to live without fear. The first attack was on November 5th, the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. This was the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes, among other catholic extremists, to blow up the Parliament building. V uses this date to inspire a revolution for a very different cause.
Much of the film is dedicated to outlying threads of story-line that serve to further expose the viewer of conditions in this society. Some of these are more effective than others, but overall they provide a great background to the central conflict between V and the government. This can be best appreciated with multiple viewings, as at first these secondary conflicts distract from the core of the film.
One of the things that made this film work so well was the sound. The sound effects, as well as the selections of music were impeccable. For instance, V’s swords always made this perfect sound when moving, and the explosions sounded truly triumphant with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture behind them. Also, several songs were used within the environment of V that were effective in creating a mood of peaceful antiquity in his home.
The writing, courtesy of the Wachowski brothers, was superb. Specifically the use of completely different vocabularies by different characters. Evey spoke with the vocabulary of an average women in her early twenties, meanwhile V utilized a much larger vocabulary to get his point across. This worked very well by helping to separate V from the government in both mind and action.
Throughout the film, the backgrounds of several secondary characters are revealed in order to expose the motives behind their actions. Several secondary themes arise from the backgrounds, which can be confusing; however, they are all relevant to both the core conflict as well as the central theme; that, “ideas are bulletproof”, and thus, we must all live without fear to protect our freedoms.
At the climax of V’s work, and the culmination of the film, the viewer is thrown into The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”, a direct parallel to V and what he stands for. Some of the ways in which the film exposes its messages will be missed by many. Especially the parallels to the use of fear by both the government in the film as well as many governments today, including our own. Much, if not all of this will be grasped by the more politically aware viewer upon the first, or sometimes second viewing. However, the Wachowski Brothers are careful to be sure that the average American can walk away with a thorough understanding of the central revolutionary plot and its themes.
– Brian Rubinton