‘Remember, remember, the 5th of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and plot,
I see of no reason, why the Gunpowder Treason,
Should ever be forgot.’
Such are the lines which all reviewers hold in great reverence when we remind ourselves that the 5th of November is a symbol of something greater than ourselves, something which has gone down into the annals of time as a historically important moment, and has been burnt into the collective conscious of not merely a nation, but of the entire globe.
What I am referring to is none other than V for Vendetta.
V for Vendetta takes place in a dystopian future version of Great Britain where the High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt – 1984, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Tinker, Sailor, Soldier Spy) rules Britain as fascist-style dictator. Britain allowed Adam Sutler and the Norsefire Party into power due to fear of the “St. Mary’s virus”, which is still ravaging Europe, and while it is free from the virus due to a cure, it has been paid with utter silence and subjugation under the part, with homosexuality Islam, freedom of speech and expression, all being crushed underfoot in the totalitarian Christian state.
The story follows Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman – Star Wars I-III, Black Swan, Thor) who is apprehended by the secret police, named “Fingermen”, for being out after curfew. Who should step into the breach to save her but the Guy Fawkes masked vigilante V (Hugo Weaving –The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Matrix, Transformers Trilogy) appears and in an effortless slicing of sharp wit and knifes, saves the confused Evey. And thus the journey begins.
I know I like to try and find something wrong with games, films and books, although my recent reviews haven’t lived up to that, but in all honesty, I have next to no problem with this film. The choice of Hugo Weaving as V was superb as, while to me he will always be Elrond from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, once he dons the mask, he becomes an entirely different creature.
To convey emotion without being able to see one’s face is hard. Really hard. To do it with your voice is easy, but the face always gives it a certain edge to allow the viewer to see the true emotion of the person on screen. Yet we never get that with V, but it doesn’t matter! You can see his pain, humour, and bad-aasery all through the never changing mask which has now gained an entirely new meaning of its own due to this film.
A lot of criticism can be given for Natalie Portman part in Vfor Vendetta, with critic Sean Brown even going as far to say that; “”Portman still seems to believe that standing around with your mouth hanging open constitutes a performance”. I won’t say that she is made the part her own and no-one else could play her character; however that is not to say I think that Portman was terrible in this film.
What is good about Portman is that she understands that her character, though still important, is less crucial than the ideas that are trying to be put across in this film. She is representing what could be anyone in this nightmarish future and in that sense plays the part well, perhaps a little better than other actresses could have done. Whilst I do not think Portman made the film, indeed perhaps it is a little fortunate for her to be remembered as being in such a great film, she does nothing to hamper the film and puts across the more humanitarian side of the story incredibly well, especially when she comes face to face with the the most potent and the most vividly clear side of a totalitarian regime, and for that part she plays it with great finesse.
And of course one can hardly forget the great supporting cast. Stephen Rea (Michael Collins, The Crying Game) is a perfect choice for the lead investigator into V, Eric Finch, uncovering a much darker past into how the nation as it is came to be. Finch can be seen, at least in my eyes, as somewhat similar to Les Misérables’ Javert in that his constant inner battle with himself to enforce the laws of the land or to take the moral and honourable course.
Also the wonderful Stephen Fry (I realise a lot of my posts are featuring Fry recently, but damn it I don’t care) plays the closeted homosexual talk show host and is brilliantly used to show as a representation of how people are represses and what happens to them when you dare to criticise a totalitarian regime.
There are many other great actors and actresses within this film which truly deserve I would go into the plot in great detail, but I would not want to spoil the film for those who have not watched it. I will merely say that the representation of a totalitarian state is represented greatly from start to finish, from the secret police, state-run news stations, secret government meetings, bagging and tagging, and even the interrogation scenes all play on our fears of being made completely and utterly subservient to an ever watching Big Brother. Even the allusion to certain corruptions in the Church being reflected in the film really puts across the point that those in a position of power may readily abuse it, and we must be ever watchful of it.praise, but I fear giving too much of the plot away by doing so. So I’ll only mention a few, Tim Pigott-Smith as Peter Creedy, Natasha Wightman as Valerie Page, John Standing as Bishop of Westminster Abbey Anthony James Lilliman, and of course John Hurt himself, all play their parts perfectly. All of the above lend their superb acting talents to critique what other films may yet touch with sufficient artfulness.
Though there is something I have to deal with though, and that is the the criticisms about the film taking to many liberties from Alan Moore’s original V for Vendetta graphic novels. Indeed when comparing the film to the graphic novels, there are many changes which makes the film an entirely different creature from the original graphic novels. The characters are very different, there are no grey moralities to the characters in the film like the graphic novels, many themes were dropped and, in some cases, the characters changed dramatically from page to screen. Also, with a change in the times, the targets of the graphic novels and the film are also different from one another.
However, in a sense, none of the differences matter because the film is a different animal from the graphic novels. While I accept that on other films I would be absolutely livid on the liberties taken by a film from its source material, yet somehow it ends up not mattering with V for Vendetta. The film finds a life of its own, somehow distinct yet retaining a hair’s breadth link to the graphic novels, and in a way, it allows you to look beyond the huge discrepancies and lets you merely wonder a a great piece of cinematography whilst attaining a new insight into the world, even if it is a different message from the books.
I would go on, but I would fear I would be boring you and take too long going into the tiniest matters to exemplify the movie instead of critiquing it, so I’ll stop now before my inner fan boy totally takes over. V for Vendetta does what few films can do; they take on not one, but many all encompassing issues and deal with them so effectively. In the post-9/11 era , made all the more lucid with the recent events of the Arab Spring, V for Vendetta is made all the more poignant, all thanks to being well executed by director James McTeigue, and well well written by the Wachowski Brothers.
So that’s it from me until Christmas then. My hiatus starts now! Thanks for reading! Please keep following me, share and like my articles, and do not forget to like my Facebook Page (link below) as I’ll announce when my Christmas article will be published from there and if you want me to review anything from when I come out of hiatus, please leave a comment there! Oh, if you want a really good farewell, click on the YouTube link as well. SO LONG!
Other articles you should read!
- “Remember remember, the fifth of november, the gunpowder treason and plot, I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot” (shareideas2013.wordpress.com)
- November 5th, 2013: V for Vendetta (2006) (leagueofdeadfilms.com)
- V for Vendetta (2006) (reelaffinity.wordpress.com)