V for Vendetta is available to rent or buy now.
“Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”
Let me take you to a world where divisive leaders rule, a recent pandemic instils fear, and public trust is placed in the hands of right-wing zealots. This is London in 2028, but it may also sound uncomfortably close to home. In many ways, James McTeigue’s adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s comic book series feels spookily reflective of our modern world, its themes of political coercion, control and crumbling democracy reflecting our deepest fears in 2020. However, thankfully their vision of England is not yet our reality, but that does not mean the ideas housed in V for Vendetta are mere fantasy.
The critical response to V for Vendetta in 2006 is fascinating, with many high-profile critics of the day less than favourable of its worth. Peter Bradshaw proclaimed it to be “Valueless gibberish,” while Christopher Orr of The Atlantic pronounced, “Whether or not one believes that governments manufacture crises and invent enemies in this way, there’s one group clearly guilty of the accusation: Hollywood filmmakers. What do movies do, after all, if not spin fictions intended to manipulate our emotions?”. Much of the critical backlash came from the film’s divergence from its comic book origins, with many critics concerned that V for Vendetta tried too hard to earn its Hollywood stripes.
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However, despite this, James McTeigue’s movie has become a cult classic that has inspired countless filmmakers with its themes of darkness and light, freedom and control. Here V for Vendetta explores political manipulation based on ideology, a trait we have become more than familiar with over the past ten years with the rise of Trump and the fear-induced vote for Brexit.
Of course, that’s not to say V for Vendetta does not have its weaknesses; for example, its conversations on terrorism are often muddy and unclear, while its dystopian mood is lost slightly towards the end. But, its bravery in the landscape of 2006 movies is to be commended; after all, how many blockbusters have a lead character as enigmatic and curious as V? And how many dare to explore the interface between acts of violence and political freedom? Here V for Vendetta earned its place in cinematic history long after its original release, as its imagined dystopian future slowly became more of a reality in a world of growing inequality and far-right beliefs.
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The final picture is an ode to the power of the individual in shaping the future by embracing the rights of democracy and free speech. While at the same time, V provides us with a symbol of the need for us all to speak truth to power at any cost. Here the spirit of Guy Fawkes is reborn in a man who understands the modern need for media, slogans and symbols to sway public belief. Meanwhile, the disintegration of democracy is reflected through the letter he keeps close, one which echoes the experiences of those who lived under the slow rise of nazism in Europe during the early 1930s. Here, the film warns that past mistakes are easily repeated when people are fed on a diet of ideologically shaped fear and blame.
V for Vendetta offers us two different messages; the first is one of hope in the ability of people to overcome a diet of fascism and nationalism through a single spark of freedom, but the second is a warning that one person’s spark of rebellion is another’s dynamite. In a world where people freely give away their rights due to fear, ignorance and complacency both carry an importance. However, even more critical is V’s reminder that the enigmatic leaders who captivate minds as they shout from their political pulpits are often nothing more than power-hungry beasts who seek to shape the world in their image.
Director: James McTeigue
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Rupert Graves, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith