film studies

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V For Vendetta Movie Analysis Film Studies Essay

In the movie V for Vendetta, ‘V’ is a man who escaped an unfair captivity by the government as an experimental study. He vows himself to revenge and kill those responsible. He also becomes a rebel leader, fighting a violent terrorist crusade against dictatorship in Britain, set in the future and ruled by Norsefire, a fascist political party in a totalitarian government. The woman Evey, a protagonist in the film, is victim of an attempted rape by the secret police, when she knowingly breaks the law by leaving her house after curfew. The policemen used their status to create fear by threatening her in order to be respected and obeyed. In the opening scene, Lewis Prothero a TV host, announces that their successful country works through ‘Strength and Unity’, which is why immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, diseases and terrorists all had to go, based on a ‘better’ judgment of their government’s religion, which in this movie is some sort of Christianity. ‘Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith’. The movie shows how government can manipulate its people, from fear to hope, Chancellor Adam Sutler was elected after a bioterrorist attack occurred which killed many. A cure for the virus getting discovered shortly after his election shows it was a plot engineered by Norsefire to gain power. The film makes plenty of political points and affronts the American government of today by making certain references about the war on terrorism and quoting the film “People should not fear their government. Government should fear its people.” As V hacks into the censored TV broadcasting system and plays his message, he raises the issues of how the government wants conformity and control, as TV, radio, books and else is all filtered and censored. He mentions the freedom of speech, and remarks that words hold power and the truth is that “there’s something terribly wrong with this country”, yet he blames both the government and the people. When there were too many issues and problem the people became scared and blindly turned to one person who seemed to know what to do, their Chancellor. There is also a parallel concept of the Holocaust in the movie, a detention facility where they would detain all that is problematic or could get in the way to achieve totalitarianism. All records of the Larkhill detention program were erased by the government since whatever was taking place over there was inhumane, cruel and wrong. Anyone who protests or speaks up is ‘black-bagged’ and disappears. In the issues of national security, the film shows that the less the people know of the truth, the better off the government is at keeping everyone in control. The Chancellor asks of the prime detective on the case of the terrorist’s attacks to disregard any information he may have found out about Larkhill and if he were to share any of his insight he would be committing national treason. One of the themes in the movie is that there are no coincidences, only illusions of coincidences. Meaning everything is part of a plot, a conspiracy. V saw that the country needed hope; therefore he blew up Parliament as a huge crowd of spectators wearing his disguise watched hoping for a better tomorrow.

Although set in England, V for Vendetta has some comparable traits with the American government. The film ties in our course material with many different scenes all throughout, by comparing British and US government. The opening scene is a British anchorman criticizing and mocking the United States of America. He talks about how the USA was once so powerful yet they are now asking for Britain’s help .The US sent boxes of wheat and tobacco as a “gesture they’ve said to be good-will” for some of England’s medical supplies. The anchorman says they should dump their “good-will” boxes out in the water just like they did at the Boston Tea Party. He then declares the reason why America has failed is, “Godlessness”. England’s government is ruled under one religion, whereas America embraces diversity. Allowing diversity is allowing a person to be an individual and unique. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights allows American citizens freedoms of such sorts, whereas the fictional British government in the movie is a Totalitarian government who enforces conformity. “Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith” is the government’s propaganda and national slogan. This belief is enforced through censorship in TV, radio, books and paintings. Different religions and homosexuality are illegal and enforced by the law. In the previously mentioned scene where the TV anchorman announces how successful Britain is, he justifies the government’s actions by claiming that their god is rewarding them, “He tested us, and we came through, we did what we had to do. Immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, terrorists, diseased—they all had to go!” This conformity was a result of an election of the Chancellor Adam Sutler, who in desperate time called for desperate measures. The power was taken from the people by their government in hopes of prosperity, which is an example of a social contract, giving up one’s rights to maintain or regain social order. In American’s government the social contract was introduced by John Locke and was influential in the writing of the Declaration of Independence to make Democracy more effective. Citizens of a country need a leader and a government to keep the integrity and wholesomeness of a country. How much government is needed or wanted is up to the voters, in Democratic governments, to choose. According to the V, the people are to blame for the government they now have, they voted and chose Adam Sutler to be their Chancellor. Voting is important. It is a way of speaking to the government to letting it know what the citizens may want and need. Currently in America, during this month’s election, some people argue and complain about the government, yet not everyone votes. V for Vendetta is an example of how bad a government can turnout if the people give away their rights and let government corrupt a country. Power is given to those elected. Power can be used for good, and it can also be used for evil, like the Chancellor in the movie. The more power one gets the more they will want. V used terrorist tactics to get into the TV station’s building and hack into the emergency channel to release a “message of hate”:

“The truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.” – V

V for Vendetta is filled with symbols that reflect upon both past and current events, some more obvious than others, which all supports the main ideas of the film. The main ideas is vengeance, justice, believing in an idea so profoundly you risk it all, and fighting back against an oppressive government that has robbed you of your freedoms. One main event that is the backbone of the movie is Guy Fawkes and his attempts to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, called the Gunpowder Plot. The movie opens with a scene of the re-enactment of the hanging of Guy Fawkes. It is mentioned that V’s costume is a Guy Fawkes’ mask. Watching the movie several times, it’s evident to see that the line that V delivers about the concept of an idea, “behind this mask is an idea, and ideas are bullet proof”, when asked why he wouldn’t die. It demonstrates how the end ties in with the beginning of the movie. It has kept the same main idea all throughout that, even years later the idea of a man in 1605 is still alive in the future. Also the correlation between Adam Sutler (Chancellor Sutler) and Adolf Hitler (Chancellor of Germany) is quite clear. The makers of the movie have used the same colors scheme, black and red, the same type of government with an erratic and controlling leader that is strongly guided by his personal beliefs. The camp in the movie called Larkhill is very similar to the concentration camps Hitler had created to destroy those he didn’t believe fit in his society. Sadly there is much worse, through research I found that Sutler’s experiments for the search of both a virus and a cure during their plot of their biochemical warfare, was very similar to what had happened in America in the state of Alabama in 1932 and in Guatemala. Those researches were conducted by an American doctor named John Cutler, (whose name is also very similar to Sutler’s), in means to find a cure for Syphilis in most unethical manners. Finally the movie that V adores and has memorized every lines of is, the Count of Monte Cristo. The past events and the life of both protagonists, V and Edmund Dantes, are very similar as in, “both stories, the hero escapes an unjust and traumatic imprisonment and spends decades preparing to take vengeance on his oppressors under a new persona.”— (Wikipedia). The ideas of the film are explained and consistent all throughout, the historical events gives the film a lot of substance and depth.

The contents of the film are both bias and objective. The movie itself was very biased but some characters are, I believe, more objective. The fictional government’s way of thinking and message is exceptionally bias, they believe in solely one strict way to live life supported by a specific religion. The fact that they have exterminated those who thought differently or were different shows how biased their government is. An example for this is when Evey’s parents are ‘black-bagged’ because they protested against the government. Another example is the fact that everything from movies to music, books to paintings, religion to ethnicities are monitored and censored all based on the Chancellor’s personal opinion. V has many of these ‘black- list’ items in his house, which is has stolen, same with Evey’s friend Deitrich which one is a hidden copy of the Koran. Right before V’s terrorist siege over the TV news station, a scene shows a conversation between two BTN employees, as the lady asks if he co-worker thinks the people will believe the cover-up story for the destruction of the Old Bailey, he replies, “why not, our job is to report the news, not fabricate it. That’s the government’s job.” This shows the government’s involvement in everything. On the other hand, V is more objective on his belief of a government. The movie never says what he would want the nation to become after the fall of Totalitarianism. His revenge plan is clear and after having killed all those who had tortured him and others, he hands over his ‘legacy’ to Evey, who now has the power to decide whether or not she needs to destroy Parliament. This again connects with one the main concept of the film that V was just an idea behind a mask, and that ideas live on forever.

The story is based on a series of novels by the well known comic book writer, Alan Moore. The screenplay was written by the Wachowski brothers who also produced the movie with Joel Silver and was directed by James McTeigue. Alan Moore’s comics differ from the movie in many ways, he intended V to be an anarchist, just like himself, against a Fascist state. He didn’t want V to be a hero, but to have hero qualities, and have the readers wonder if they like him or not. Moore had a lot of qualification to be talking about the movie. He lives in England and knows the government and the political issues going on. Mike Rubino mentions in his essay response on the movie that, “Moore, a confessed anarchist himself, was writing in response to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party and the upcoming 1983 election. He was vying for the British Labour Party to come out on top (they didn't). Britain was facing actual threats of fascism groups; there were riots all over England.” This shows how Moore was inspired to write his comic book. In a way, V for Vendetta was a very personal response to the way he felt about the British government. Therefore it makes sense how upset he was when he saw the script of the movie written by the Wachowski brothers. Rubino goes on quoting Moore from an interview on ComicCon:

“This was one of the things I objected to in the recent film, where it seems to be, from the script that I read, sort of recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism. There wasn't a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged. I mean, I think that any references to racial purity had been excised, whereas actually, fascists are quite big on racial purity.”— (Moore)

As a result, Moore made sure his name was not implicated with the movie. The Wachowski brothers are not bad play writers, they are known for the Matrix movies which had great success. James McTeigue is also not a bad producer; he worked on the Matrix movies with the brothers and Star Wars. The idea that Moore conveyed in his comic books just did not translate well after being Americanized.

What I have learned through watching the movie over and over and researching about it would be the concepts of dystopia and how little the public knows about how much involvement the government has, or could have had in terrorist attacks. I am familiar with the term for a perfect society to be a Utopia, as my brother often referred Singapore as one; I have grown to understand the meaning of it. Never did I think it had an antonym. Dystopia came across my readings while researching about the movie, I wasn’t sure what it meant so I looked it up in the dictionary and their definition was, “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”A dystopia is a world seemingly close to a nightmare, which is what the Totalitarian government must feel like living in. Another concept I learned was about the controversies there may be and secrets kept from us by the government. In the movie they showed how their government was using a virus to make thousands sick and coming up with the cure to look like the hero, just to control people’s vote and have them give up their rights, all for power. When I re-watched the movie, I thought about Michael Moore’s movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. His movie was exposing certain facts about the Bush Administration and their efforts to use the terrorist attack of September 11 as a reason to go to war with Afghanistan. You can’t help but watch V for Vendetta and compare the two and question the American government …‘what if? I had seen the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 long before I saw V for Vendetta, and didn’t try to think too much of it, I already had my opinion set on President Bush and his father so the movie maybe only strengthened it. Though while researching more and finding out how the government had similar experiments as in the movie, done on minorities some doomed to be left to die. It is heartbreaking to know or think that, people like my boyfriend, are going and went to war based on a probable false incentive by a previous President, where they will fight and possibly die.

I thought the movie was hard to understand if you didn’t have knowledge or hadn’t read anything about it prior watching it. I had watched it a long time ago but wasn’t until I had to write this paper that It finally got to me. I really liked it. I absolutely love Natalie Portman, who plays Evey, and the wittiness of the lines. Once you know what to look for, you can truly enjoy all the symbolism and references made, some more controversial than others. It’s very easy to see and appreciate all the work and thought put behind each scene. The type of government portrayed in the movie made me reflect on Singapore’s government. At first living there I felt that the government had too much control over the people. The citizens gave up certain rights in exchange of the Prime Minister to always look out for their best interest and the wellbeing of the country, similarly to the movie it was done through the un-written agreement known as a social contract. The government of Singapore, which is a Parliamentary Republic, regulates your internet usage, censorship in movies (which makes any American film about 30 minutes shorter) and music. Also there is a long list of illegal possessions like drugs (death penalty), pornography, homosexuality (if caught results in death penalty for men), weapons (knives, blades, swords, of course guns ECT.) and the list goes on. Although it may seem like you are deprived of some freedoms, it works for such a small country and reassures the people that they live in a secured and guarded place, where they can raise a family without corruption. The movie takes it to the extreme as the leader’s intentions are bad to begin with, but it is a comparison I made while watching it. The only detail I didn’t like about the movie was the year it was set in, 2020. It doesn’t match the opening quote which states, ”A man can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world.”Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in November 5th 1605, 400 years later would place us in the year 2005 (which was the original release date but was pushed back). To me, it makes it seem like the makers of the movie wanted to say something to Americans without being too obvious, as 2005 was a sensitive year (troops were being deployed for the war overseas, North Korea was building weapons of mass destruction, Hurricane Katrina, ECT.) Was a wakeup call from the people necessary at the time? Did perhaps the Bush Administration need an intervention? As I mentioned that’s just my personal thought. Overall great movie, and inspiring message to stand up for what you believe is right, even in dark times, just like in a marriage (or at least what it used to be) to stick together. “The security of this country depends on the compliance of everyone.”---Chancellor Adam Sutler.


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