A visceral vivisection of vile and villainous veneer of virtue, V for Vendetta vows to validate the veracity of violence. Subduing the sinful state by the skill of a single stalker, the story seems sincere in spirit but simply sins the same sins. Alright, enough with the alliteration. I’ll admit, I’ve a mild case of it, but I’ll never have a reason to be ashamed of even my darkest abuse of the writing gimmick after witnessing the awful audacity which V for Vendetta displays when introducing its protagonist.
Simply known as V (Hugo Weaving), the Guy Fawkes inspired individual decides to fight back against a totalitarian European government. Caught up in his little war against tyranny is Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a would be victim who becomes the first to aid V, although almost by accident. But as Evey becomes more familiar with V, she discovers how frightening the man really is. This perhaps should not be all that surprising given that he goes around blowing up government buildings.
And it’s where you personally fall with the V character that is going to determined how you feel about the film. Some will see him as noble hero, others as an evil terrorist. To the film’s credit, it does swath V as complicated character. On one hand, he stands for very noble and pure ideas, but his means of getting there are often revolting and it’s very likely that you’ll hate his character by the end, even more than the snobby British government people.
But make no mistake, V is the hero of the film, if only because the film does it best to make sure the snobby British government people are so sleazy and despicable that we rejoice in their demise. It perhaps isn’t all that hard given that most people hate anyone with their nose in the air and the Brits know how to play a snob you love to hate. Casting Roger Allam doesn’t hurt either. Between this and Speed Racer he’s becoming one of my favorite badguy actors.
The film is also problematic in that it presupposes that the best way to fight a tyrannical government is with tyranny. Instead of doing something like creating a peaceful diplomatic underground government movement, V decides it would be far more graceful, poetic and effective to blow shit up. It’s like watching a Fox News debate where the winner of the argument is simply the one who can yell the loudest. By creating more tyranny and violence than the actual government, V sparks an uprising.
And the film pads it all with a bunch of philosophizing. Much like The Matrix, the film wears its themes on its sleeve and has characters walk around with sermons poised on their lips. It’s the kind of dense philosophizing intellectual wannabes eat up. Not that there’s inherently anything wrong with it, but last time I checked V for Vendetta was a movie, not a philosophy textbook.
And it’s for that reason that it must be said that V for Vendetta is a pretentious film. Its protagonist struts about espousing esoteric bits before slashing his opponents to death and when he blows up builds he does it while blaring music and conducting as if the violence is a symphony. He seems to see some kind of artistic expression in his violence that doesn’t exist. But wait, you say, according to your top 100 A Clockwork Orange is your favorite film and Alex is quite a pretentious chap with a predisposition for violence. Perhaps, but the difference is that Alex is an anarchist who doesn’t seem to believe anything about his actions while V goes about in a very presumptuous manner as if he actually is adding meaning to the world by blowing it to bits. And the film indulges him by having his work inspire people.
And that really is the core problem with V for Vendetta: it presupposes destruction can be meaningful and inspiring like a work of art, even more so, that it is a work of art. And that is one of the most pretentious things I’ve ever heard. Forget all those snooty art-house films, if you like this film you are way more pretentious than I could ever aspire to be. I commend you, for my status is far too lowly to find any powerful meaning in this film.
© 2010 James Blake Ewing