Written by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
Directed by James McTeigue
Starring Nathalie Portman, Hugo Weaving and Stephen Rea
Evey: I wish I wasn't afraid all the time but I am.
A young lady speaks these words to a man in a mask who has imprisoned her in his home. This time in captivity is the most free she has ever felt. London waits outside these walls, as does her job, her friends and what she calls home. The insides of these walls are lined with art; the room is filled with history, music, colour and life. The mask the man is wearing is a Guy Fawkes mask, in honour of the man who once plotted to blow up the parliament building in London as part of a Catholic plot to overthrow the British government. The man behind the mask, known simply as V, plans to finish what Fawkes started centuries before, and blow up parliament in the name of the British people, so that they can reclaim the freedoms of life they gave up to their government out of fear years before. While the government and media, naturally controlled by the government, proclaim V a terrorist, V sees himself more as an artist. For V, the artist is one who uses lies to tell the truth, while politicians use lies to cover the truth up. The men behind V FOR VENDETTA clearly feel the same, as they make a terrorist into a sympathetic protagonist and draw undeniable lines between the ruling British government of V’s world and the current political relationship of the United States government and its people. As writers, the Wachowski brothers choose to highlight fear as the motivating factor in people’s lives, but go so far as to implicate the government as the major perpetuator of that fear. This is not a fresh accusation but the Wachowski’s go boldly further to accuse the government, fictional or otherwise, of not only maintaining a stronghold on its people through fear, but originating that fear to begin with, subsequently forcing the people to abandon the original motivating factor in their lives, love.
The frightened young lady being held captive by V is Evey (Natalie Portman). Director James McTeigue, longtime protégé of the Wachowski’s, instantly links Evey and V (played by Hugo Weaving) together in the opening sequence of the film by juxtaposing the two characters getting ready for their evening. They are both fixing themselves in the mirror, putting on boots. They both watch the same television news program and both shut it off at the same obnoxious point in the commentator’s monologue. They are both putting on their armour to protect themselves in the night, her from harm, him from human connection, and they both have similar views and ideals. The major difference, she’s going out to visit a colleague and he’s going out to blow up a building. As Evey, Portman is composed and confident. Throughout the course of the film, her character learns to open eyes that have been closed in fear since she was a small child when she witnessed her parents’ abduction by a government task force. With her eyes wide open, she can finally stare fear down and see there is a grander design that she is but a small yet vital part of. Weaving plays the role of V although it may be more appropriate to say the role of V is voiced by Weaving, as we never see him without his mask. Weaving’s delivery is both eloquent and polite making for a poetic and charming terrorist. Together, V and Evey are a delightful couple. McTeigue puts them in very simple and close situations, like sharing a breakfast V prepares for her or cozying up on the couch to watch V’s favorite film, “The Count of Monte Christo”, which Evey enjoys but finds sad as the hero chooses duty over love.
Evey’s quest is in all of us and we all must overcome our fear, as must she. Placing the viewer on par with a terrorist and his apprentice is what makes V FOR VENDETTA so poignant and effective. At a critical moment in Evey’s journey, which can also be ours, she must give herself over to faith and allow herself to be the person she wants to be. Her future self must choose to leave her present self behind her for the present self is too heavily controlled by her past to do what needs to be done to effectuate change. Explosions will ensue and life will be forever changed. It is the change that we cannot fear for we have sacrificed so much of ourselves to that fear. V FOR VENDETTA is dark and bleak. The citizens need deep extremism, shown here in a stylized pairing of bombs and fireworks set to Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, to wake them from their complacency. This is where my fears come into play. I fear that we are far too comfortable, far too afraid, and far too apathetic to respond to the call to overthrow those who impede our growth as individuals and as a species. I fear we believe change will come but that it will just happen without any work on our part at all.
V FOR VENDETTA is playful and cheeky. It is exciting and insightful. It can be very wordy but I like wordy. Ultimately, its very root is fearless and that bravery will energize and invigorate the viewer.