Remember, remember the 5th of November



Popcorn entertainment is a term used to describe films produced by a major studio to feed to the largest audience possible. Typically, a stigma, “V for Vendetta” is exactly that type of film, but in the best way possible.

If taken as a political piece, it will not blow you away, but considered as an action film that also asks questions it is a much more enjoyable experience. If you want to acknowledge the subtext; of which the film is overbearing but wonderfully infused with; you can take that route.

In the film, there are many parallels; explicit and implied; to Nazi Germany, Bush and Blair’s administrations, 1984 [including the fascist leader of the film only seen on a huge screen implicative of “Big Brother”], The Count of Monte Cristo and especially Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Taking place in the near future, “V for Vendetta” is the story of V, a stentorian, intelligent and probably insane freedom fighter trying to complete the 1605 Gunpowder Plot to bring down Parliament by blowing it and 10 Downing Street up. In this case, it is conceived of reviving Fawkes’ plan in order to bring down the Norsefire regime, a fascist state of government control.

The film begins with Evie [played by the lovely Natalie Portman] being saved from a rape at the hands of the curfew police by V. He then introduces himself to her using a speech filled with fifty-five words starting in “V” and orated in iambic pentameter.

To end the evening, at midnight they celebrate the beginning of Guy Fawkes’ Day by blowing up the Old Bailey Courthouse while Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture plays over commandeered public loudspeakers. The rest of the film is the twelve months that follow leading up to a promise to bring down the government on the next November 5.

Never allowing himself to be seen without a Guy Fawkes mask on, V makes himself a symbol of the people. The Government he is against figuratively and literally created him. His power comes about because of secret Government experiments, which also leave his body a mass of burnt tissue.

It also makes him a metaphor, since without a face of his own, he is a symbolic representation of the people and since he is left with no eyes, he is as the blindfolded lady in our courts which mean to represent justice.

Not content to simply act as terrorist and lone messiah, he wants to have the people on his side as well. While he could succeed without the support of the masses, he chooses to include them. The idea of a good leader being inclusive while those perceived as bad; like Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin; focused on themselves is a part of human history V understands.

He is very clever and understanding of manipulation and subversion. The differences between the government he is fighting and himself are shallow and his understanding of it is why he spends the year getting revenge on the government and gaining support while Norsefire attempts to gain order and control only cause more dissonance and support for V’s anarchistic ideals.

A lot of time is used discussing and dissecting the rhetoric of the film. That is because that is the film. Everyone speaks heavy-handedly and all actions and matters have the weight of existence bearing on them.

A lot of that is thanks to the taut script penned by the Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry. While the Matrix scripts; and films; were overwrought, bloated and frivolous, here, everything works. Adapted from a thoughtful graphic novel by Alan Moore, the Wachowskis are kept from their typical meanders and instead we have their most thought provoking and focused script.

The direction of James McTeigue also keeps it from being too much as well. There are times it nearly becomes too silly or too serious but smart directing along with editor Martin Walsh pushing forward the action, keep it from toppling into trite.

Visually, the film is stunning. Totalitarian starkness for the Norsefire and striking bold colors for the revolutionaries, but also there is the motif of using propaganda of modern times to make the world inhabited by the film familiar to audiences.

“V for Vendetta” is the last film of famed cinematographer Adrian Biddle, and is visually a subtle supplement to all the messages handled in the script. For action fans, the explosions are plentiful and violence highly gruesome and stylized. For cinephiles, the use of light, color and contrast all richly support the narrative.

This is not a perfect film, but it is a perfect popcorn film. However deeply you choose to look for meaning is up to you. While it may or may not spark debate with you and your friends, you are sure to be entertained.