Feb 13, 2012

V For Vendetta - An Analysis

The BBC gives Alan Moore space to write about the creation of V For Vendetta, and the inspiration for the Guy Fawkes mask, which has become a world wide symbol of resistance and protest (link at bottom).

What IS V For Vendetta? And who was Guy Fawkes?

Fawkes had been declining as a symbol of protest until the graphic novel, and the subsequent movie was released. 

Guy Fawkes belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an attempt to assassinate King James I and VI of England and Scotland, by blowing up the House of Lords. Acting on a tip, authorities discovered Fawkes guarding thirty-six barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes and eight other conspirators were tried and hung for treason.

On November 5th of that year, people of London were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the failure of the King's assassination, and November 5th became known as Guy Fawkes Day.

The movie, directed by the Wachowski brothers (the same team responsible for The Matrix trilogy) has become a cult sensation for a variety of reasons.

Proof that the graphic novels format is not brain deadening waste of time, but can be important cultural counter points.

V For Vendetta seemed immediately relevant when it came out, with the memory of September 11, 2001 still raw, and the concerns over increasing government intrusions into our private lives, and the ever-growing surveillance of citizens, coupled with the reduction of civil rights, all in the name of security.

It was controversial from the start, with explosions of government buildings being a key part of the plot, and assertions that it encouraged and glamorized terrorism. The film, with its Hitler-like references and stinging commentary about America, inspired much debate when it was released in 2005. Additionally, one scene involves using explosives in a subway; the film's release was pushed back after real terrorists bombed a London subway.

The story is about V, a masked vigilante who appears in a London that has become a near dictatorship, with surveillance vans recording people's private conversations in their homes, and the state being all-powerful. High Chancellor Sutler is brilliantly played by John Hurt, who played Winston Smith in 1984, George Orwell's masterpiece about an omnipresent dictatorship.

V appears out of nowhere to institute a carefully planned attack against Sutler's totalitarian government for its unspeakable crimes, and in the process, rescues Evey, played by Natalie Portman. Hugo Weaving's performance is nothing short of phenomenal, even more impressive considering you never see his face (James Purefoy was originally cast to play V but was replaced by Weaving four weeks into production). Weaving was dropped into the role at the last minute, so some of the fancy knife and fighting sequences were done by a stunt man wearing the mask and costume.

Interestingly, Moore was very vocal about his displeasure of the film, which differed from the graphic novel it was based on in several ways, but there is no denying its cultural impact.

Below is an interesting interview with Weaving about his title role in the film.

LINK to program in which Weaving and Portman interview each other based on viewer questions (embedding for this video has been disabled)


BBC op-ed with Alan Moore

V For Vendetta critical analysis

V For Vendetta Spells C For Controversy

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