It’s nice to see so many movies with a political message come out in the same year. Starting with Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana (I have newfound respect for George Clooney which will last I suppose until he too is co-opted by the liberal media) and now V for Vendetta - 1984 meets Batman.
Of late I am turning into an anarchist. As the abuse of power grows around the world and the hard won freedoms of the last century are being eroded, I have less and less faith in political institutions like the State and the Military and pretty much all religious institutions. In the West, the future seems very uncertain. The US, especially, is in deep trouble. The President wants powers to arrest and detain without trial, to spy on the population and to wage war where he sees fit. It is a given that the State will try and assume such powers, that is the nature of power. What is worrying is the American people’s acquiescence in these totalitarian plans. Reading rightwing blogs and watching the news and commentary, it is shocking (well, not really) how uniform the message is - give up your freedoms and we will protect you against those shadowy enemies of ours. Be patriotic. Honour the flag. Believe things that go against your own interests. Denounce your neighbours. No matter how much you believe in the goodness of your President, these are dangerous powers to return to the State. Without freedom, life really sucks. Rightwingers in the US as well as much of the UK media totally denounced the movie saying it is anti-American and glorifies terrorism. Both of these statements are true. Whether this makes the film reprehensible is another matter altogether. I would ask the patriotic Americans to remember all the things they said when the jackboots stop outside their door.
So it was with a warm glow that I left V for Vendetta. It is a call to the people to stand up and protect their rights. Its message is one of cynicism - don’t believe what you read in the papers. Don’t believe the television news. Agreed, blowing things up isn’t the right way to go about things either, but the basic message was fine. There is a lot of politics in this movie. I got the same feeling as I got while reading 1984. Orwell says in 1984 that ‘perhaps the best books are those that tell you what you already know’, and this movie definitely fell into that category. I have to admit that I am really impressed with the Wachowski Brothers. Their Matrix movie was an eye-opener for me, in the sense that I had never really spent much time thinking about the illusory nature of things. And V for Vendetta while it didn’t inspire any new thoughts fell so neatly onto my current frame of mind that I was totally hooked.
The film itself is flawed in many respects. The plot isn’t really the best ever. There are too many diversions and subplots that end nowhere. However, I must say that the way the backstory is revealed is masterful. Hints and allusions give us some of the story at the start ('Her brother was at St Mary’s’, 'The former United States’, etc) and the rest is revealed in a manner consistent with the fact that all the protagonists are intimately familiar with their recent history. Good science fiction is like that.
V is complete fantasy of course. In the final analysis, this is a flawed but beautiful film. I put it right up there on my list. The final scene had me thinking about Gandhi and how he managed to mobilise the entire nation with the strength of his ideas. As V says - You cannot kill me for beneath this mask there is not flesh and blood but an idea and ideas are immortal.
Having said that though, it’s not like the film is going to change anything. The Wachowski’s are the first to put out the thought in film that the US is headed for major trouble - civil unrest, civil war, civilisation crash - and the reaction is going to be 'Inpossible. The American economy is too strong. The country is too powerful.’ (I’m quoting verbatim from one of my banker friends). In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond shows how most of the civilisations that ceased to exist did so soon after their peaks of population and power, and they collapsed hard due to having constructed such somplex societies that they could not adapt to changing circumstances. I believe that in the year 2000 and some double digit number, historians will look back and say 'But we knew this was going to happen….why did we let it go on?’ C'est le human nature, mes amis.
Anyways, when I got back I immediately checked the Tomatometer and I found one review which touches on nearly everything I thought about on the Tube back home including - wow, how did the studios agree to make this movie and what exactly did the Wachowskis have to do to get them to agree. It’s the best review of the movie in my opinion. Read it here