V for Vendetta

'People should not be afraid of their governments;
governments should be afraid of their people"
Pick up a pitchfork and get ready to threaten the establishment, a revolution is a-coming!

I re-watched this the other day as I was inspired by a TED talk on the 7 deadly sins - this one focussed on 'greed' and it was an eloquent talk by an American plutocrat who had made billions during the dot.com boom. Even though he was considered to be in the top 0.1 percent of wealth worldwide, I'd never heard of him. He even made that point. How can a man who owns as much money as him, not be on the average person's radar? His talk was the antithesis of the famous Gordan Gecko 'Greed Is Good' mantra - he said it's bad, it's corrupting as it isolates people from each other. The opposite of greed in his mind was community. How can you be part of a community where the gulf between rich and poor is as wide as it was prior to the French Revolution?

After this man's talk I realised a film like V for Vendetta was starting to feel far more real and present than Alan Moore intended when he wrote the graphic novel during Thatcher's rein.

In light of the London Riots a few years back, and other bleak 'austerity' news reports since, the premise is alarmingly realistic. A lone vigilante known a 'V' (Hugo Weaving) is the sole voice of resistance against a fascist, oppressive regime ('Norsefire') headed by former Tory and now High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt). This is sold to the people through toe curling propaganda by the 'voice of London' Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam) and enforced on the people by Peter Creedy 'the finger' and head of the secret police (Tim Piggot-Smith). Just to make the point that every fraction of the establishment is corrupt, the church is headed by sexually dodgy Archbishop Lilliman (John Standing). In this world where homosexuality is a crime and non-conformity results in a mysterious deaths and disappearances, is media worker Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman). On a night out, she rebels against the curfew to enjoy a night out, only to be caught and threatened with rape by the secret police. Saving her from the scene is V, and from this point her life is manipulated until she 'sees' the truth of the brutal world around her that has been normalised through years of not-so-subtle enforcement.

I love the iconography of this film: the fascist looking banners of the ruling party, the strong contrast of red and black in a hostile set of banners not too indistinct from the Third Reich; the Guy Fawkes mask; the dystopian, gritty streets of London; and finally, of course, the Palace of Westminster ripe for the talking, glittering against the Thames. These icons exaggerate the themes of the film especially the Guy Fawkes mask, which naturally harks back to the original historic revolution, but also allows V to be a social representative. As the protagonist he could literally be anyone, or everyone, who's disenfranchised by the establishment. Evey's final lines even state this when she states 'He was all of us'. It's a trick authors sometimes use; give away as little as you can about the main character, so your reader can imbue themselves into the role.

The main theme is of course about civil liberties and freedoms being usurped by the state for our 'own protection'. If you believe a lie and absorb the fear created by the media, then it allows for the most terrifying injustices to take place while the public apathetically sit by. Hence the Nazi symbolism. It was apathy that allowed Hitler to get in, but this London shows that it's unfounded fear that allowed Norsefire to evolve from the Conservative party. This totalitariast party fuels the fear fire with hints about disease pandemics, CCTV, media manipulation, religious hypocrosy, foreign threats, terrorism, internet surveillance, torture, intelligence gathering, profiling. Hmmm. Sounds familiar.

Call it serendipitous, but the reason this film has got under my skin this week is because I also watched 'Inside the Commons' which exposed the Palace of Westminster as a juvenile public school club where policy and public interest is second to antiquated traditions and subsidised drinking. Almost prophetic then that the director James McTeigue stated the film "really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people."

Now... where's that pitchfork?


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