Saturday, March 18, 2006

V For Verily, It Could Have Been A Great Film

This movie is rated LBB - SBC: Little bit o’ blood, somewhat bloody confused. Viewers who are squeamish with violence or viewers who remember (unlike the film makers) that Guy Fawkes was pro-Catholic may not find this film their cup of tea.

I joined my friends Josh and Matt for a V FOR VENDETTA preview. A flick with some fun visuals, some thought provoking twists (doesn't V become the evil he is fighting when he -- well, those that have seen it know what action I'm talking about), and some really powerful scenes (V at the doctor's bedside -- nice!)

And, ultimately, a movie that is too much confused by itself. Head to Jeffrey Overstreet for movie reviews; and head to The Beat, a comic book blog, to see where the confusion began. Alan Moore, author of the book (V FOR VENDETTA) on which the movie is based, rants about how Americans messed up the vision.

You see, the original is supposed to be a thought provoking juxtaposition of anarchy versus fascism (not where the movie takes it -- Conservatism versus Liberalism). Moore was shooting for moral ambiguity, and as he says it, "I didn't want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think."

I get why the film chooses to shift the conversation -- I mean, who wants to talk about anarchy versus fascism when we can talk about our current government? And who really wants to leave a movie theatre in a state of ambiguity? Okay, I know some of us might, but the box office hunt isn't for some, it is for a wider swath. So shift the conversation, and make V a full on hero, not an ambiguous one.

SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this blog will give away plot points. Pretty much the plot points that the trailers already gave away, but still, plot points near the end of the movie. Read on at your own risk.

The film starts to run into trouble with itself as it approaches the ending. V’s goal is to create anarchy – but if the film ends in anarchy, and V is now the poster boy of anti-conservatism, doesn’t that make liberalism look like anarchy? Truth be told, V does reach his goal of anarchy long before the attack on the Parliament building – with riots, as protesters and police clash and kill each other in a bloody mess. Death and destruction in a bloody mess; hmmm, that isn’t quite the alternative one would like to suggest to replace the Republican right. So instead the filmmakers end up with an anti-climatic mix of peaceful explosions.

And it could have been so much more (it could even have been so much Moore). Critic David Denby of THE NEW YORKER pithily remarks, “ “The country “doesn’t need a building,” V says. “It needs an idea.” Yes, but “Vendetta” doesn’t have any ideas...” (Thanks again to Jeff Overstreet for the lead.) The film makes its argument about what is bad, but has no clue of what might be a worthy alternative.

It’s not as if there were no opportunities. Evie, clearly not of the government, need not have been of V either. (And considering her circumstances, she shouldn’t be on V’s side.) V comes right out and tells her (and us) that the future should be neither of the fascist or the anarchist – it belongs to Evie. So what does Evie stand for?

She blows up parliament, voting for anarchy. Mostly because she wasn’t offered an alternative by the film makers. There was no third choice to consider – and there should always be a third choice.

When I watched the movie, I had no emotional or visceral reaction to Parliament blowing up. I did have an emotional reaction to the people taking their masks off. But not a cathartic one – and it should have been cathartic. It should have been a whoop followed by silence as I sat in wonder and awe over the future of this freed society, over the potential they now hold in their hands. However, there is no potential – only a choice between anarchy and fascism.

That crowd of the cloaked maskless, that crowd of sheep who had a moment of unified courage – that is a crowd of the lost, not of the found.

Want to know my fix? Of course you do.

First, the months that Evie spends away from V should be about her discovering what a free life should look like. (True freedom is not about being free to do whatever you want, but being free to do what is right.)

Second, for the finale, after the crowds have pushed through the soldiers, when the question comes – shall we have anarchy or fascism? – Evie should choose a third way.

Instead of blowing up Parliament, a tremendous fireworks display should be set off from the building; a glorious vision of pyrotechnics that doesn’t destroy.

Evie should have stated in action that she could have destroyed, but used her freedom to chose not to.

Not that would have been an idea.

Just my thoughts,



Anonymous said...

Right on Sean. Your post articulated pretty much everything I thought when watching the film.

The only point I would add is that the film seems to be one long justification for the Stockholm Syndrome. I'm not sure this was something the filmmakers intended, but the subjectivity of Evie's experience of V ruled out an objective perspective on her clarity.

Gaffney said...

I agree. The filmmakers wanted us to forgive and follow V, after all, what he did was for her own good, and the end justifies the means... no, wait, that's just what the fascists were thinking...