Did V For Vendetta predict the future or were we always destined to live in an authoritarian state just waiting to be overthrown?
2005’s V For Vendetta was a powerful film. The movie adapted by the Wachowski’s from the graphic novels by Allan Moore and David Lloyd Now it isn’t just pop culture but a battle cry for the abused, downtrodden, and oppressed. V for Vendetta is the story of a masked vigilante who calls himself V naturally and a young woman who joins forces, reluctantly at first, with him. He is the catalyst for a growing rebellion against a fascist, far-right conservative Britain in the year 2020.
A disease called St. Mary’s Virus is running wild in the world, and a fascist government is capitalizing on the devastation. Anything different or other is hunted down and thrown in detention camps to be experimented on and abused for the sake of “the greater good.” The government rules with harsh restrictions, propagandized media, and fear. Those who speak out or refuse to be cowed are “disappeared” permanently. Some are simply killed, and others go to treatment facilities, and I use that term loosely, to be used as test subjects. V was one of the former patients of such a facility. He was experimented on in the name of the preservation of Britain. What didn’t kill him made him stronger.
The irony of all this, of course, being England made the virus. It was designed and surgically released to create the most chaos. The government isn’t concerned with a few deaths, even those of children. Citizens are pawns, nothing more. Water systems are contaminated(Flint Michigan anyone?) to infect select people, and the virus spreads like it was intended. Predictably, they couldn’t contain it just like they now can’t control the masses. In V For Vendetta, 80,000 are dead. The current death toll from COVID-19 in the US is 122,000 and rising. Let that sink in. We are at a tipping point, and all the pieces are falling into place for life to imitate art. That should scare you.
Having escaped, V is on a mission to kill all those in power responsible for his trauma and to start a nationwide coup. The experimentation and fire ravaged his body. He covers it with elaborate costuming and a Guy Fawkes mask. For those non-history buffs, Fawkes led the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He and several English Catholic priests led by Robert Catesby attempted to blow up Parliament and assassinate King James I. The attempt ultimately failed. Still, the idea lives on in nursery rhymes heard by V at the beginning of the film, and the infamous mask donned by revolutionaries like Anonymous and Occupy Wallstreet in 2011.
Remember, Remember The 5th of November
Gunpowder treason and plot;
For I see no reason
The Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
If you have ever watched a Wachowski adaptation, you know you are in for a visceral, profoundly thoughtful rumination on morality and the human spirit. Moore and Lloyd’s V For Vendetta is precisely that only more prophetic than is comfortable. I watched the film in 2005 and quite frankly hadn’t thought of it until recently. Seeing it now with the backdrop of a global pandemic and civil unrest brought on by police abuse and the Black Lives Matter movement is terrifying.
The cast is brilliant. Hugo Weaving(V), Agent Smith from The Matrix Franchise emotes anger, sorrow, and frustration with only his voice. He is, at times, impish and others ardent. The ever-reliable Natalie Portman(Evey) is a delicate balance of fragility and strength. John Hurt(Chancellor Sutler) uses his signature voice and repressed emotional delivery to bring to life a frightening megalomaniac. Stephen Rea’s Finch manages to portray the inspector’s conflicted sense of duty and misguided loyalty.
Ideas Are Bulletproof
It is a concept V holds dear. The problem with that is ALL ideas are bulletproof. Whether true or false, they can’t be taken back or stopped. You need only to look at our status quo to see that preconceptions and apathy lead to decades of systemic racism and violence. Foster inequality and justice dies. Foster instead social justice and anything is possible. V understood this and was willing to gamble truth would prevail. Vi Veri Universum Vivus Vici is a modern Latin phrase meaning: “By the power of truth, I while living, have conquered the universe.” Attributed to Faust, V uses it as a motto of sorts. The truth will set you free.
Fascist governments use fear and lies to rule. Last week President Trump effectively gutted The Voice of America in favor of Breitbart-Esque leadership to parallel exactly what happens on V. I’m not suggesting President Trump is as bad as Chancellor Sutler, but he might be. The newly approved appointee Michael Pack has a history of making films with a decidedly conservative bent. Many fear it is the first step in a state-run media system.
The Count Of Monte Cristo And Baptism By Trial
V wants to bring down the government, but he also wants vengeance. The famous adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas details the life of Edmond Dantes, who becomes the rich and mysterious Count. Dantes is falsely accused and imprisoned on the day of his wedding to Mercedes. Surviving six years, he escapes and plots his revenge. His whole existence becomes contingent on his three betrayers’ misery. Shortly after being taken Evey watches the movie with V. It makes her sad because Dantes couldn’t love Mercedes as much as revenge. V loves Evey but makes a similar sacrifice to the cause. Their romantic fate is identical. The final words of the novel echo the finale of V, “all human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.” Where there is hope, patience is possible.
Each of the two main characters goes through a baptism of sorts. Evey by rain after being freed from V’s pretend government to jail and V in fire. He escaped his prison in an explosion that left him badly burned but alive, angry, and filled with purpose. We are all in our baptismal phase. America is being forged in unrest and riots.
The film shows a dystopian world that is uncomfortably close to our own. The powerful ending of V For Vendetta shows what we can accomplish when we come together. We all wear masks right now, just not Guy Fawkes ones. Keep your masks on, and your voices raised. Viva la Revolution!
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.