CANFIELD REVIEWS V FOR VENDETTA
I'll toss my hat into the ring on V for Vendetta. It's a film that I liked but should have been a film I loved, been a film I was scared to watch again. The Wachowski's have given V. a life and a vendetta but they haven't given the rest of us (Evey Hammond included) an honest to goodness epic adaptation of one of the very greatest graphic novels. I saw Vendetta twice before writing- one of those viewings at an Imax theater. And while I liked it better the second time I was convinced that V. himself might be hiding in the wings waiting to torch the screen with a cry of Viva La Revolution.
V FOR VENDETTA
V for Vendetta's central challenge to the status quo is a great one for this day and age. Leaders don't abuse your power. Citizenry hold them accountable if they do. But the question “Should people be blowin' stuff up?” complicates the matter considerably. It's impossible to review this film without delving into politics and also impossible, I firmly believe, to deeply wade through it without addressing the film's spirituality.
To begin with V. isn't a stand in for Bin Laden but for the idea that men must be governed- even or especially those that govern other men. This idea hinges on the notion of morality and morality, although it's unpopular to note these days, is hinged on the notion of judgment. People have to be held up to a standard and the more responsibility they accept the higher a standard it must be.
Now the two basic ways we look at this stateside are that the government needs more watching than the peoples and that the peoples need more watching than the government. So, those with a conservative bent are liable to be most offended after viewing V for Vendetta because they feel they have witnessed someone walking around in a fright mask that was poorly designed to look a little bit too much like themselves. Are they the naughty Bishop, the ranting dictator, the over the top Limbaugh-esque demagogue or maybe even V. himself. This of course would be the ultimate insult because it would imply compliance not with the corrupt government- a charge that can be easily dismissed as naïve- but as compliance with the real enemy- the idea embodied by V. that as much as they would like to dismiss such fictional “others” as terrorists, those characters often resemble them too much to make doing so feel satisfactory. And of course nowhere does the resemblance to conservatism seem more fundamental than in V.'s willingness to kill so as to impose his system of order on others. That smiling Guy Fawkes mask couldn't be more mocking.
In fact it mocks us all. If The Wachowski Brothers have over simplified Alan Moores original story to the point where it's merely that of yet another “one” awakening to “the truth” about the “real world and the way it runs.” they still present a compelling argument for citizens to take their own initiative in making sure their freedoms aren't traded away by the rich and the powerful.
And this is where the spirituality of the film lies. ‘Blowin stuff up' may seem like the most secular of activities but in truth it's closer to the heart of the whole idea of morality than the bland non-involvement of the masses in their own “did you vote today” national destiny has ever been. The entire idea of absolute right and wrong hinges on one making itself felt over the other. In other words there must be a constant stream of judgment holding everyone accountable for what society becomes but especially the ones who dare lead. In other words we all have to be the disciples of what we believe is right. We have to give everything we have to it. We must in essence worship it with our industry, our thoughts and our hopes. It's a fundamentally spiritual matter.
Which is why it's doubly a shame to see Alan Moore's powerful prose brought to the big screen in such a truncated form. This is a message movie alright- if the message was any louder you wouldn't notice even the special effects bombast. But the message only resembles Moore's the way that the Matrix films resemble their philosophical source material- the nuance and more importantly the coherence is ultimately lost. This isn't just a matter of film aesthetics but of what the viewer is invited to walk away with.
The power of V. is that his apparent lack of mercy showcases an authority that is actually quite merciful in it's own way. His punishments inevitably fit the crimes, and just enough force is used on the individual to help them to make the necessary leap in their thinking that will allow for growth and understanding. Again the only possible parallel is to God- humans just don't have the moral credentials.
Of course the difference between the world that V. lives in and the world we live in is the problem. We do not possess his superhuman reflexes and skills nor are we as intellectually gifted in coherence of worldview. We are not God would be one way of putting it. But even in the mishmash of jaded citizenry and corrupt leadership that make up what we call today's society V. does have one important thing to say. The ideas are coming to find us out. Truth, justice, love, and perhaps not far off in the future judgment is coming. Will we be sleeping when all that we love and hold dear is stolen away?
Our society wrestles limply with these issues and I think V. is right when he says the reason is fear. But that fear like all things isn't felt in the Wachowski's film where we are only offered a cartoon version of Moore's complex governmental dystopia. It's only hinted at. A longer film would have been peopled with people not comic book tropes and would be harder to have walked away from feeling merely entertained.