Saturday, April 01, 2006

Finally caught "V for Vendetta" with June. A very GP-ish movie asking the question, "Terrorist or freedom fighter?" Also, lots of questions dealing with justice, politics, religion, bio-ethics, the arts, and the media. Juicy!

June points out that this isn't essentially the action flick that the trailers promise, but I appreciate the slower pace that develops the plot layer by layer, revealing more and more of the mystery behind the dystopia the world has become for the characters in the movie.

The bomber, V, who models his appearance and ideals after Guy Fawkes is the lone voice daring enough to point out that the emperor has no clothes. Everyone else has been cowed and/or become disinterested by a monolithic, authoritarian, oppressive regime, where people "disappearing" after a late night visit by the police is almost routine.

In order to rile up the people out of their resignation, stupor and apathy, V first catches everyone's attention by blowing up the Old Bailey in London and then throws down a challenge. V names his next target, the Houses of Parliament; and the date, the next year's Guy Fawkes' night. To the authorities, it's "try-and-stop me;" to the people, it's a rallying cry for revolution against the incumbent government.

So begins a chain of events that V orchestrates. His vendetta is against those people in power who had literally made him the monster he has become. His call for revolution is in earnest, but his job, as he sees it, is to clear the way for the people to rouse themselves and reclaim for themselves the freedom taken from them by the High Chancellor's Nazi-like Norsefire Party, and not to do it for them.

V judges the people's will to act through Evey, whom he shelters when she inadvertently gets implicated in the Old Bailey attack. Through Evey, we catch glimpses of V's elaborate scheme to bring down the governemnt. Her response to V's activities mirrors the sentiments of the people who, though subdued, are far from the sheep the government takes them for.

Despite the effort the government puts on the political spin machine, the public sees right through the media and privately sneers at the whitewash. Emboldened by V, pockets of dissent rise in small acts by various individuals, each one building to encourage other acts that are increasingly daring. Even Gordon, a highly regarded late-night talk show host and a seeming member of the political elite reveals his own dissent in his final broadcast, a blatant parody of recent events featuring V making a complete laughingstock of the High Chancellor, and the viewing public makes no pretense to hide its laughter.

The plot places great importance on us getting to know the individual, mundane details of a number of characters' biographies. One of the characters only exists in flashback, but even her story is told if only as pencil scribblings on some toilet paper. The glaring ommission is V's own backstory. We never really know him apart from fragments of others' memories and inferences, though through an exquisite deception we will get to know him better than any of the other characters in the movie. As V proclaims, "Artists lie to expose the truth. Politicians lie to hide it."

In any case, V represents an idea, not a person. The people, though not sheep, feel alone in their dissent. It takes an immediately identifiable icon of utter audacity, to unite them in small, insignificant acts of rebellion. After all, compared to the complete and spectacular obliteration of a venerated public building, what is a little spray-can vandalism of a public poster by a kid wearing an identical mask to V's?

V, the bomber, sets things up so that he isn't the one to deliver the coup de grace on the Norsefire administration. That final act isn't for him. Change has to stem from the collective will of the people, not the will of a single idealist. The people themselves have to decide what they want, take action and wield People Power once again; and all V's efforts lead the people to this point.

Within a year, V lays down his challenge, instigates the people to play his game while making their way smooth and enacting his vengeance all at the same time. V fulfills all his promises by the end of the movie, but do the people do their part as well? Will they betray him in the end? No spoiler from me about that. Go watch this brilliant statement on ideas and people and politics to find out yourself.

"V for Vendetta" goes on my list of top movies for 2006.

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