Yes, it’s another late post. Not because I was too busy, but because I had forgotten. Not forgotten to post, nor forgotten that this movie wasn’t very good. No, I had forgotten how angry the movie makes me, so I ended up only being able to work on this in small doses. Hope you appreciate the torture I put myself through for you.
As I mentioned yesterday, V For Vendetta was originally a comic by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, about a super-strong anarchist in a Guy Fawkes mask pursuing revenge on his former tormentors against the backdrop of a future Fascist England. It was by turns stylish and creepy, but you’d never want to mistake it for a coherent political statement.
Well, unless you were the Wachowski Brothers, apparently, who wrote the screenplay adapting this anti-Thatcher story into an anti-Bush one. The movie was directed by James McTeigue, the brothers’ assistant director on the Matrix films, and released in 2006, about halfway through Bush’s second term.
The story opens with Evey, played by Natalie Portman, preparing for some sort of date. But she decides for some stupid reason to go to this date after curfew, which puts her at odds with some Fingermen (who are like the secret police). They decide to rape her, just so her evening isn’t a complete bust.
Which is when a mysterious figure in a Guy Fawkes mask shows up and rescues her.
And you know, I can almost buy this premise at this point, the heroic freedom fighter against the forces of oppression. But I’ve already got a bad taste in my mouth, because during the “getting ready” montage just before this, we had the “Voice of England” evil TV propaganda guy decrying the evil United States of America (or “Ulcered Sphincter of Arserica,” as he says) for turning away from God and being tainted by Muslims and homosexuals.
And I realize early on that this movie is not going to be about a heroic freedom fighter battling forces of oppression, but about a cartoon liberal battling stereotypes and strawmen.
So anyway, the guy introduces himself as V very theatrically, which Evey loves because she’s always secretly wanted to be an actress. V takes her to a rooftop where he lets her watch as he blows up the Old Bailey, and she realizes that this guy is c-r-a-z-y.
The next day, the High Chancellor (played by John Hurt) is reaming out his department heads over the breach of security.
And this is a moment that the movie actually does well, because aside from the obvious 1984 allusions in the source material, there’s an extra layer of meta-irony at having John Hurt, who was a victim of Big Brother in the 1984 film version of 1984, now playing Big Brother himself.
So Inspector Finch, having no luck tracking down V, tracks down Evey instead. She works for the British Television Network, which is now exclusively a propaganda organ for the government. But moments before the cops arrive, V arrives to interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast with one of his own, using a suicide-bomber vest with a deadman switch to compel cooperation. He broadcasts a message to the entire country, telling them that he will blow up Parliament in one year(on November 5th, natch) and inviting them all to join him.
The cops burst in to find everyone on the set wearing V masks, and the suicide vest wired to a timer in the control room. Inspector Finch, played by Stephen Rea from The Crying Game, watches as BTN head Dascomb (Ben Miles of Coupling) disarms the bomb.
Meanwhile, Evey has helped V make his escape. In return, he takes herÂ to his secret lair, the Shadow Gallery, filled with dozens of forbidden works of art.
And he is an assassin. He uses Evey’s I.D. card to get in to assassinate Prothero, the Voice of England whom V knew from his time in some sort of concentration camp.
But he’s not just an assassin. He’s also becoming a folk hero, as is shown during several interludes where we see people all over England watching their TV’s. And one of his earliest and biggest fans is this little girl with the coke-bottle glasses.
So V continues to kill high-ranking party members, including a bishop with a predilection for little girls. V uses Evey as bait for him, which allows Evey her opportunity to escape (which is odd since we’ve had a few scenes depicting her growing attraction to this odd masked man). When V attacks the bishop, Evey runs away and seeks aid from Dietrich, the TV comedian she had been heading to her earlier date with.
Dietrich is played by Stephen Fry, formerly of the comedy duo of Fry and Laurie. And he is played as an alternate version of V. Like V, he likes to make Eggy in a Basket (also known as toad in a hole), and like V, he has a secret forbidden art gallery. Only his secret gallery contains homoerotic art and a Koran, because once again, the movie insists on portraying Muslims and gays as some sort of fellow travelers, which is just… fucking… idiotic.
Oh and like V, Dietrich loves the theater, only his tastes run more toward Benny Hill than Shakespeare. Emboldened by V and Evey, Dietrich decides to do a Hill-style parody skit, complete with scantily-clad dancing girls and Yackety Sax, which depicts the High Chancellor getting killed by a firing squad of his own troops. V’s fans laugh and laugh, but the official reaction is less approving.
As Evey tries to escape, she is Â caught and a bag is thrown over her head.
Meanwhile, Inspector Finch has learned where V came from, if not who he is. V was a prisoner in a concentration camp where they conducted experiments on political prisoners to try to find a cure to a particular bioweapon virus, a virus they ended up using on their own people to gain political power (shades of Loose Change). V was the only survivor and broke out in an explosion that left him horribly burned. And this scene pays particular homage to its comic-book roots with its visual style.
Evey, meanwhile, Â comes to in a prison cell and undergoes weeks of torture, starting with having her head shaved.
She is starved and near-drowned and held in a cramped, dark cell without even a cot to sleep on. Her only solace is a note found in a crevice in the wall, an autobiography written by a woman imprisoned for the crime of being a lesbian, and if you feel your hair fluttering, it’s because my eyes are rolling so hard it’s making a breeze.Â But as Valerie declares to Evey that she loves her, it brings tears to Evey’s sunken eyes.
Armed with Valerie’s love and courage, Evey defies her captors, at which point, we get hit with the real mindfuck. Evey is told she is free, and her captor walks away. She steps out of her open cell door and discovers that she is actually in the Shadow Gallery with V.
He set this up, tortured and starved her for weeks while also providing her with Valerie’s story to teach her something about herself (although what that is isÂ never named –is she a lesbian? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…).
And it’s at this point that I stop thinking this movie is a visually stylish, but drearily liberal bit of nonsense and start to get actively angry at this suckhole of a film. Because this is just a shitty, shitty thing to do to a person on every level, but the movie is not just going to have her reconcile with V, but actually thank him later. And the movie expects us to buy into that, because V is so artistic and tortured and most importantly, not conservative.
Thank God the movie’s almost over. So anyway, V is moving into his endgame as he goes after the two most difficult targets, the High Chancellor and Creedy, the head of the secret police. He promises to turn himself in to Creedy if the Chancellor is killed first. And Creedy, tired of the High Chancellor’s threats, agrees. Meanwhile, as November 5th draws near, V has Guy Fawkes masks delivered to every house in England, hoping to inspire the people to rise up against their oppressors.
And remember V’s biggest fan, the little girl with the glasses?
Yeah, she gets killed in one of the masks while spraypainting graffiti, which causes a riot. And such chaos and anger and instability was exactly what V was hoping for when he sent the masks. But hey, if you want to make an omelet…
So comes the Fifth of November, and Creedy kills the High Chancellor, and V kills Creedy along with a dozen or so cops, and is fatally wounded himself in the process, and oh God isn’t this movie done yet?
But no, because Evey has returned to thank V and he declares his love for her before dying, and meanwhile, the people of England, in the logic of the typical Hollywood liberal, are declaring their individuality by all dressing the same and marching in lockstep.
Yay! Only not, because everyone who died during the movie is there in the crowd and it’s some sort of statement about, oh, who the fuck cares?
Because let’s check the scoreboard, shall we? Civil disobedience? Good. Blowing up buildings to make a symbolic point, a’la Timothy McVeigh or the 9-11 crew? Cool. Suicide bombing? Hunky-dory. Killing cops, as long as they’re bad cops working for a corrupt system? Groovy. Muslims? Artistic and poetic. Gays? The most awesomest awesome ever, especially when they read the Koran, because Muslims+Gays=BFF’s y’all<3!
Christians? Killers and pedophiles. Conservatives? Fascists. Following the law? Cowardly. Kidnapping, false imprisonment, and torture? The worst evil imaginable, unless you’re doing it as therapy, in which case, romantic.
Man, you know what? Fuck Guy Fawkes Day.