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Movie of the Month: V FOR VENDETTA

So V for Vendetta is based on a limited comic series from 1988 by Alan Moore and David Lloyd- they’re essentially the same, in as much as a movie can be the same as a book.

So the film is set in a dystopian future where a fascist, totalitarian (so if you don’t know political words- think Nazi Germany, 90s Iraq but worse, etc) regime has taken overrrrr the United Kingdom. There is a world war and an increase in terrorisms, the United States fractures after a SECOND civil war and an epidemic virus is destroying Europe. Weirdly accurate to current events. Kind of scary lol.

At this point, Britain is being ruled by a neo-fascist, supremacist police state ruled by the High Chancellor Sutler. People who are deemed “undesirables” by the party, such as immigrants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, homosexuals and political opponents are imprisoned and executed. So literally Nazi Germany.

The movie is centered on V, the masked dude, and Evey Hammond, a young woman who V rescues and then she gets caught up and involved in V’s mission. Our antihero is the detective, desperately trying to stop V and his mission.

On the 4th of November, Evey (and employee of the state-run British Television Network) is about to be arrested/probably murdered by the secret police- V happens upon the situation, and rescues her. At the stroke of midnight, fireworks and a classical overture sound as the Central Criminal Court building is demolished by explosion. This literally sets the tone for the rest of the movie. After this, V hijacks a news broadcast to claim responsibility for the attack, and he tells everyone to meet up next year on Guy Fawkes Night outside of Parliament.

Let me give you a little history real quick - the Gunpowder Plot was an attempt to blow up King James I of England and the Parliament on November 5, 1605. Robert Catesby organized the plot in an effort to end the persecution of Roman Catholics by the English state- he and the other conspirators wanted to assassinate the king and Parliament so that they could be replaced with Catholic leaders. On November 4, Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators, was discovered in the cellar of Parliament lurking about- when the area was searched, they found about 36 barrels of gunpowder.

After being tortured, Fawkes revealed the conspiracy against the Protestant government. Unfortunately, during his torture he also revealed the identities of his co conspirators.

In 1606, English Parliament established November 5 as a day of thanksgiving- and the day is still celebrated around Britain in remembrance and celebration of the plot’s failure.Now this is important- Guy Fawkes Night is not a holiday where they are venerating Guy Fawkes- in fact, they burn him in effigy.

Now there is a LOT that happens in that next year, but I’m not going to ruin the details for you if you haven’t seen the movie. I know for a fact that Allison hasn’t, even though I’m pretty sure we watched it together in a class in college, but that’s an argument we already had and I still don’t know who was right.

The movie ends- well, let’s talk about poetry, alright? The movie ends, frankly, the way V would have originally wanted it too. In the end we see revolution, we see doubt in the government, and we see a people retake their power.

The film (and the book) does mirror some major pieces of classical literature and film, in very interesting ways. V wears a mask to hide his disfigurement, like the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. V and the Phantom are motivated by revenge for their tragic pasts, and control using imagined possibilities. The relationship between V and Evey even mirrors that of Phatom and Christine, with the male taking the female into his hidden underground lair to educate her on society’s truths. Which, has some possible overtones of patriarchy, but in these cases they were correct so I’m gonna let it slide. V at least gave Evey some freedom….. Which if you watch it, you’ll understand what I mean.

V is also a mirror of Edmond in The Count of Monte Cristo, a classic and one of my favorite bedtime stories as a kid. The hero in both escapes unjust imprisonment and creates a new persona under which he plans to take vengeance on his oppressors.

Further, it’s interesting that V’s face, his specific identity, his name, none of this is actually important. We get bits and pieces of his tragic past, and glimpses at his face I suppose, but nothing enough that we can truly put a specific identity to him at any given time. This is super helpful in establishing that V doesn’t represent a specific person or a specific set of actions, but he represents an IDEA. He IS the idea, and that is more poignant and more relatable than any detailed backstory we could have ever been given.

In spite of the fact that the comic was written in the 80s, the film adopts some details that were very relevant to 2006. References to the “Coalition of the Willing” (which was a combination of US, UK, Austrian and Polish, typically referred to as Coalition Forces) in conjuction with Nazi concepts, imagery of political prisoners mirroring images seen from Iraqi prisons where the US troops and CIA were sanctioned for war crimes and human rights violations, and references to the Advisory System put in place by the DHS after 9/11. Obviously a handful of America/ UK specific references, but the director said in response to questions about whether it was directed at the US specifically that “everyone is complicit” in the stuff that the movie is a commentary on. Pretty accurate, frankly.

Specifically, Stephen Rea- the actor who played Inspector Finch (aka the guy trying to catch V the whole movie) was asked whether the politics attracted him to the film: he said “Well, I don’t think it would be very interesting if it was just comic-book stuff. The politics of it are what gives it its dimension and momentum, and of course I was interested in the politics. Why wouldn’t i be?”

Which brings me to make a side point y’all might not have been expecting: comic books have always been inherently political. Always. So every mom’s basement dweller comic collector or macho man who doesn’t know shit about the history of comics but likes his Superman tshirt- they can all shut the f up when they start talking about how mad they are that Jonathon Kent is bi, or how Captain Marvel was pandering, or whatever they’re mad about this week. It’s always been that way, and you’re just too dense to figure it out.

ANYWAY, as we discuss the politics of the film it’s important to note that the author Alan Moore explicitly and purposefully disassociated himself from the movie. He had been disappointed in the past with film adaptations of his writings, so it’s not really that specific and surprising to this film. However, he said that the film script contained plot holes that he was displeased with… and that it ran contrary to the theme of his original work !!!! Moore said that the original point of the comic was to juxtapose two political extremes, fascism and anarchism, and pit them against each other. But actually, i get that from the movie. Moore argues, however, that the film adaptation became a story about present day 2006 American neoconservatism vs. American liberalism.

David Lloyd, the co-creator and illustrator, supports the film though and basically says that Moore wouldn’t have been pleased with anything short of an exact book-to-screen adaptation. Which, fair. It’s interesting in a way that Moore hates it so much though, because Lloyd actually revealed that back in the 80s when they came up with the book Moore wanted it to be a movie. Idk, I kind of feel bad for Alan Moore- two of his works were so displeasing to him in the film adaptation that on this third, iconic and seriously successful cult classic of a movie he just said see ya, I don’t even want my name on it. Like the man doesn’t even get royalties.

I will admit, however, that there are some pretty serious differences between the film and the graphic novel, so I get it to an extent. The original novel was created as a response to Thatcherism in the early 80s in Great Britain- though there are some similarities, the directors changed some points to make it more of an American commentary, which abandoned the ferocity of the fascism (Moore himself called it defanged), removed mentions of racial purity (which we know is a common factor in situations where immigrants, gays and political dissidents are being

Not shockingly, based on the subject matter, the movie has actually been removed from streaming services in China since 2020. They said it promoted anti-gov themes… and have deleted all of the backlash from their internet platforms.

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