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Wednesday

I don't even know how to start without sounding like a 14 year-old girl after her first Britney Spears concert. I've been home about twenty minutes and I've been frantically pacing the house trying to digest it.

I didn't think Hollywood was capable of this. Right at the start, V is talking to Evey (Natalie Portman) just prior to blowing up a London monument, and he points to a statue of Justice. One brief line "...the imposter who stands in her place", and already I love this guy. It's primarily a movie of philosophy, as much so as the first Matrix movie, but this time they get the philosophy right.

Well, mostly. It gets nothing really wrong, it's only sins are those of omission, and a slightly misplaced focus. The back-story eventually comes out that this is a right-wing government, with (too frequent) references to the oppression of gays and Muslims, and one minor mention of the "war that America started" being a fundamental catalyst that led to Britain's current state. It is also integral to the story that his particular vendetta is against those individuals who were instrumetal in running a prison camp that would make Josef Mengele proud, where he was imprisoned, tortured, and made the subject of horific medical experiments.

Looking only at this backstory, V's actions, and at the targets he has in his sights, might lead an audience to come out of the theater thinking that government per se gets off the hook - after all, it is only the actions of a small right-wing group abusing their power and carrying out a grotesque plan to seize and hold absolute power that have led to this.

That would be a mistake. His words tell a different story. His explanations of what he is doing and why consistently go to the larger picture, to the fundamental things that make those individual atrocities possible. To principles.

The movie is too subtle on this, and even undermines it to a small extent, but it is implied throughout: It is government itself that is capable of such atrocities. It is government that enables them, that creates them. It is not right-wing or left-wing governments alone that seek absolute power, it is not a few evil men that abuse power. It is the existence of that kind of power in and of itself, power that continually strengthens itself, becoming more and more attractive to those who want to use it, that makes it inevitable that it will eventually fall into the hands of those, both great and petty, to whom such atrocities are means to their ends.

V does not spare the huddled masses. They share the guilt - they allowed it to happen, even asked for it to happen. Still, his vendetta is not directed at them. He is not a terrorist, even though he is repeatedly described as such both within the movie and from without by many real-world reviewers. He is not out to terrorize the population, he is after the real power. Like a true individualist, he will give them hope, and eventually free them - despite their complicity - but as a side-effect of pursuing his own interests.

This movie is as much about a personal attitude of freedom as it is about freeing the country, the people. He comes out of the prison transformed, physically mutilated, but no longer afraid of death. Evey goes through a similar, though far less horrific, experience and is similarly transformed - physically, but much more important emotionally - to the point where even old friends don't recognize her face. It is this that allows her to do what she does at the end.

It does more than allow it, it makes it inevitable. This is what governments should fear - not the actions of those who decide that integrity is that "last inch" of their lives that they will never give up, but the decision itself. Integrity can only be voluntarily abandoned, it can never be taken by force. It is the one thing every individual has the power to keep, even when they no longer have the power to preserve their own lives. It is this realization that strips government of all power, that leaves the wielders of its instruments at the mercy of those whom they try to control.

This is what the movie is ultimately about. "People should not fear their governments, governments should fear their people." Once people decide they have nothing to fear, then governments have everything to fear.

Comments

The film adds nothing of value to the comic. It's only contributions are the kind of superfluous nods to main stream hollywood conventions that one would expect. The love story between V and Evey, the sub-matrix stylised fight sequences, and the truly awful monologuing that the Wachowski brothers seem to delight in.
Go and read the comic, and then have another look at the film.

Posted by robbie at Friday, March 24, 2006 07:48 AM

"The film adds nothing of value to the comic."

Brilliant. Now why should I care?

Posted by jomama at Monday, May 08, 2006 05:19 AM

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