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Orwell and Hitler: V for Vendetta

Essay by review  •  December 23, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,251 Words (10 Pages)  •  853 Views

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"Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot." V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue, opens with this quote, briefly describing the history of Guy Fawkes and his plan to overthrow a tyrannical government, a plan which the protagonist seems to follow in London some 400 years later. This film, while of course is meant to entertain as most films do, is also given the role of sending a message. It has been said by many unnamed sources that "a people should not fear their government, a government should fear their people." To agree or disagree is up to the individual. Agree or disagree, this film is a warning. A people should not let any one, be it any one person or any one group, become too powerful, for that only leads to the destruction of the very people who allowed it to happen.

Following the opening quote, there is a flashback to the arrest and subsequent execution of Guy Fawkes, with a voice-over describing that "you cannot love an idea," and that the narrator loved a man who stood for an idea, an idea identical, if not somewhat modernized, to that of Guy Fawkes, and that, because of him, she will always remember the Fifth of November.

There is then a cut to a close-up of a face speaking, explaining the issues of "the Former United States," with a zoom out showing a first-person point-of-view of someone putting on a Guy Fawkes mask, making a visual link between this faceless character and the original Guy Fawkes. While on a brief take of what is now clearly a television screen, we hear the man give the mantra "Strength through Unity; Unity through Faith;" a mantra which, as intended by the writers, can be easily compared to the mantra in 1984, by George Orwell: "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength." V for Vendetta is filled to the brim with other literary and historical allusions. The posters with a stern image of the high chancellor, Adam Sutler's (John Hurt), features mimic the posters of "Big Brother" from 1984. The symbol of "The Party" in V for Vendetta can be visually analogous to the Nazi hakencruz, or swastika. The Sutler, while not donning the well-known mustache, is seen as a vaguely Hitleresque character.

When first introduced to the faceless protagonist, he is found quoting Shakespeare: "The multiplying villainies of nature do swarm upon him... disdaining fortune with his brandish'd steel, which smoked with bloody execution..." (Macbeth Act I, scene ii, lines 13-14, 20-21). This shows the audience that he is not just a man doing great works, but rather that he is a very well-read man. In his introduction to the main female character, Evey (Natalie Portman), "V," played by Hugo Weaving, makes a lengthy speech, chock-full of alliteration, repeating the "v" sound. This introductory speech now shows the viewer that he is not only a well-read man, but is also immensely intelligent. In the prelude to a "musical performance," "V" dedicates to "Madame Justice," with the camera showing a close-up of a plaque the base of a statue on top of what is presumably a judiciary building, which states "Defend the children of the poor & punish the wrongdoer." This quote apparently holds irony for "V," as the audience will later find most apparent. He begins this performance by "conducting" the "1812 Overture" by Tchaikovsky, leading into a procession of explosions, put in time with the music. During a meeting of the high officials, "prominent Party members," this song is "blacklisted."

During general chaos and disorder at the BTN, or British Television Network, there is graphic match-on-action, of people attempting to exit the building, not knowing what or why. Later in this scene, a police-force of sorts is seen, in a similar match-on-action, scrambling together to attempt to find the source of the disturbance. Match-on-action continues with shots of citizens watching the hacked television broadcast of "V" talking to the people about his plans.

The identity of "V" is left a mystery until the very end, at which point a name is given, a name that means nothing to anyone. The only parts of "V" that are ever seen are his hands. This view of his hands is brief, and occurs about a half an hour into the film. At first glance, on a close-up of his hands, one may believe that he is wearing oven-mitts, as he is cooking breakfast in a pan and they truly do not seem to be hands. It is only after Evey comments on his hands that the viewer realizes just how gruesome they truly are; the hands of a monster perhaps. He greets her with a pleasant, "bonjour mademoiselle."

Later in "V's" far-from-humble able, Evey is awoken by the sound of metal on metal, and fears that they may have been discovered by the authorities. In running to see what is the matter, however, she sees nothing more, or less, that "V" sword-fighting with a large, inanimate suit of armor. He gets so hammed-up at one point that he forces the hand of the suit to grasp around his throat as if to choke him. Upon discovery of being watched, he explains that he is acting alongside "my favorite film, The Count of Monte Cristo, with Robert Donat as Edmond Dantes." Immediately following this brief explanation, the character of Dantes is heard making this quote: "It is not my sword, Mondego, but your past that disarmed you." This quote makes further literary connection to "V," as the viewer can link that quote to "V's" relationship to Lewis Prothero, "the Voice of London," who the audience later finds out was once a commander at an "institute" where they were testing chemicals on civilians under the guise of safe government work.

In a flashback, as read from a journal by the writer of said journal, the viewer gets an inside look at what went on at the "institution," as well as the opinions of the person in charge. The viewer gets the unique opportunity to see that "V" calls himself by such a name, because while at the facility, "he could no longer remember who he was or where he was from," so he called himself by the numeral on his cell door: V. On the Fifth of November, "V" blows up the facility; more links to "V," V on his cell door, V being the Roman Numeral for 5, the Fifth of November; coincidence? "There are no coincidences, only the illusion of coincidence."

A cut from a revelation of conscience of the narrator of the journal, we see a delayed graphic match of breakfast being prepared. When Evey

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