Wow. Now we're in amongst it. When I saw this movie I was astounded. It's intense. It's also laden with metaphor, references, and symbolism. Alan Moore, who wrote the original comic and is a spectacularly original thinker, arguably too good for his medium, built his story with symbolism as the foundation stone, the bricks and mortar, and the roof, ha ha. The use of V in the title is just the beginning of a deep attention to symbols, some profound, some less so. But I don't want to get too hung up on the arcana. I'll stick with the bigger picture of the moving picture. The comic was an attack on Thatcher's Britain. The movie twenty years later is an entirely different kettle of fish. It's about terror, false terror, fascism, torture and resistance. But what's it telling us? First, who's who.
The villain is the unmistakably fascist government of a future England. I prefer Mussolini's definition of fascism to the dictionary. He declared it was the merging of corporations with the state. In V, it's clear that the fascist coalition comprises wealthy corporationists, the military, the church, and politicians obviously. This is a movie and its fascism must have an art-directed look. The look chosen is clearly a variety of Mussolini's 1920's militarism, with a bit of Franco thrown in.
The question arises, why would any modern fascist state choose such a give-away as to their true nature? Sure, this is a movie, and for the audience to be able to say 'We've seen all this before' is a plus. It's a visual shortcut to save us wondering what's what. And that's precisely why no modern fascist state would ever look like that. They'd look like anything but. With most of the 'first' world already a corporate/state conglomerate lurching its way to full-blown totalitarianism, how is the popcorn-eating masses served by a film that says, 'Fascism looks like this'? They aren't, obviously.
Know that the state spends staggering sums of money on market-research, and other such black arts, so that they may be exactly as warm-and-fuzzy, brave-and-true, and Jimmy-and-Stewart as any consumer could possibly want. If Hollywood hadn't made a pleasantly diverting flick saying, 'THIS is how you will know fascism', any crypto-fascist government keen to confuse, would have had to have done it themselves.
Gosh, there's a crazy idea. Hollywood as some unwitting false-flag marketing tool of a crypto-fascist government! Ha ha ha ha... 'unwitting'. I crack myself up.
But this is nothing compared to the film's conceptual bombshell. The fascist government of Britain grabbed power by a terrorist attack it committed on its own people. Holy Shit! 911! 'If our own government was responsible for the deaths of almost a hundred thousand people... would you really want to know?' Kapow! The big question! Just roll it around in your head for a bit. A bunch of Englishmen killing their fellow countrymen (with whom they hold no them-and-us grudge) in the tens of thousands! Surely it's not possible. Foreigners certainly. Anyone can kill a foreigner. And a foreigner, us. It stands to reason. But for a fellow to kill his own... it's just seems so unlikely. Bravely V for Vendetta posits just such an impossible thought.
Waitaminute. Did somebody say false-flag just now? Oh, it was me, ha ha. You know what false-flag is, surely. It's when a first party pretends to be a third party to trick the second party. There's plenty of historical examples. In the Lavon Affair, of 1954, the Israelis had Egyptian Jews blow up Americans in Cairo in order to trick America into attacking Egypt. And in 1967 when the Israelis tried to sink the USS Liberty and kill everyone on board they wanted the Americans to blame Egypt (again) and nuke them. They didn't need to convince LBJ of course. He'd launched the nuke-carrying skyhawks before he was even meant to have known whodunnit. Such spooky prescience. Gee whiz, what busy false-flaggers the Israelis have been.
Funnily enough, no one ever thought to consider a false-flag attack as a possibility in 911. This in spite of the fact that all the Israelis normally in the WTC were all absent that day. This in spite of the fact that Israelis made spectacles of themselves high-fiving and celebrating exactly as if they'd pulled off the coup of the century. This in spite of the fact that the first words out of Israeli PM Netanyahu's mouth on the subject of 911 were, 'It's very good'. He couldn't help himself could he? Sure enough the historically obvious possibility was never considered by the Jewish media.
And so it is in V for Vendetta. Fuzzily cynical types like me, convinced that the official 911 story was bullshit, would be impressed that here was the film that understood us. Our doubts were confirmed. Vagueness was sharpened. Little of it's cinema terrorism actually resembled 911 apart from the heroic demolition of Westminster. But in this film we could finally know whodunnit. Says V for Vendetta - The mass murderers of 911 were our own. Evilly this 'we' attacked our own children, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers. Don't think about the perfect unlikelihood of this. Just know that within ourselves live impossible monsters. Rightly, those of us smart enough to know that fighting Israel's Arab enemies is bullshit, should according to this movie, spend our time tearing apart what's left of our society in a righteous search for these mythic terrifying heffalumps. Thank God V for Vendetta came along to harness this contrarian force and put it to good use.
Really the hero here is secondary. It's less important that we know whom to emulate, than whom to attack. But still, don't imagine the film-makers just slapped him together. In film, everything is considered. Man-hours would have been devoted merely to the choice of V's shoes. I kid you not.
The most significant thing about V is that he is super-powered. Sadly he offers no clues for the non super-powered. We, as a bunch of listless, ill-equipped mug-punters, are offered nothing here apart from waiting in hope for some stylish uber-man to send us a mask so we may commit petty crime. But perhaps there is some nervy daredevil who might take his cue from super-V. Says V, 'Symbols are very important'. Or somesuch. Did anyone really understand what he was on about? Or were you like me? Um... symbols mean something, um... bad, and... we should blow them up! Yay, blow that shit up! Oooh, aaah, fireworks pretty.
Our ancient cultural symbols, nominally about liberty, freedom and rule of law are a sham and we should smash them. V solemnly intones that it is right. The sad-faced policeman (who is actually us, searching for answers and reluctant to embrace the truth) in awe of V's classically educated rightness, finally concedes to the inevitable violence.
The policeman/us realises that V is not a masked Travis Bickle - hell bent on not-sure-what. He is Gandhi and Rambo's star-child: a blood-spattered, knife-wielding guru possessed of the ancient Guy Fawkes wisdom of how to blow shit up for the good of all. The rightness of turning an 800 year old architectural marvel to rubble as an answer to fascism is never questioned. How will this work exactly? Um, the bad guys all give up, or something. Fingers crossed! Never mind sensible targets like the media - the collective taking of which could bring down every fucker going - just smash your own history instead. Look to the Red Guards perhaps. The rightness of their mad smashing campaign is evident in the architectural wasteland that is modern China. Either way - aspire to ill thought out destruction.
In this movie our heroine achieves a great thing. She casts off fear. It's a pity it required her to be tortured, starved, and frozen. By the hero. But good guys do that now, don't you know? And then there's the art direction - does our heroine become a Buddhist nun or a holocaust survivor? And is there a purpose in the latter? I guess it can't hurt to remind us who the real victims are.
Regardless, shedding fear is an unpleasant process best avoided by all. And upon having the requisite breakdown and arrival at fearlessness what does our heroine do? Nothing. At all. Wait, does shopping count? Otherwise she sits around watching the telly waiting for V. One wonders what purpose the whole thing served - apart from ensuring she didn't dob in V that is.
And what with V knowing best let's not argue the rightness of torture. As the uber-man, V may commit whatever nastiness he sees fit to preserve himself. Or to put it another way, torture works. Finally with her torture forgiven our sexy victim/hero pops up again to ensure that V gets the girl, albeit by way of a slow dance. I guess that when you have no willy that's the best you can hope for. But willy or no, the hero gets the girl and what's a bit of torture between friends?
This film is as good as it gets folks. It's a masterpiece of co-option of the people smart enough to know that the government is full of shit. This movie wants you to be impressed that you know that your leaders are lying. This is the final arcane trick of the people who've raised lying to a god-like art. It fooled me. After seeing this movie I phoned my friends saying I couldn't believe Hollywood had released such a subversive movie. Was I the only one to think this? Exactly. But we fell for it again: Hollywood didn't release a subversive movie, they released a thrill-packed enjoyable di-version. Real (and impossible) subversion would feature Egyptian Jews planting bombs, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunning lifeboats, and white Ashkenazis high-fiving as the towers come down. THAT'S subversion.
And guess what? I expect that no one but the Wachowski brothers and their financial backers got the gag. Not the director, not the stars, and certainly not the audience.