The movie “V for Vendetta,” directed by James McTeigue, follows the actions of a freedom fighter who operates under the alias “V” and uses guerrilla tactics to oppose the totalitarian regime established in England. When he rescues Evey Hammond from the secret police, he also gains an accomplice.
James McTeigue, the director of “V for Vendetta,” entered the film industry during the 1980s, and he became an assistant director in 1991. He was an assistant director known for participating in the creation of “The Matrix” series and “Star Wars Episode II.” The movie “V for Vendetta” was his debut project.
Because of his previous associations in the industry, it is possible to notice that McTeigue’s style was influenced by the Wachowskis, who were the main directors of “The Matrix” trilogy. The Wachowski brothers were also partly involved in screenwriting, producing, and directing “V for Vendetta” as the second unit directors (Sperling and Spines, “Hidden Invasion”). Although they were not credited for their contribution, it is not possible to notice the difference in direction styles between the first and second unit scenes.
It is also important to note that the movie “V for Vendetta” was created after a popular comic book series under the same name, which was created by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Moore was already an activist who likes the idea of anarchy and talks about the fascist threats that were present in England’s political system at the time the idea to make “V for Vendetta” was brought up (“Alan Moore Talks”). The main idea was to describe the result of the current political trends if they continue to develop along the same trajectory and demonstrate the power of the people and the scope of their influence in shaping politics.
According to Alan Moore, most stories that take place in the future are not talking about the future, but they are referencing present situations and events (“Alan Moore Talks”). The future setting is only a fantasy element that helps the reader enjoy the story better, but they should also be able to understand the deeper points the author is trying to make. In Moore’s and Lloyd’s case, it was the threat of fascism and the power of individuals.
However, it is also important to mention that Moore was disappointed with Hollywood and their previous adaptations of his work. Because of his history with the movie industry, Moore declined that he had been involved in the process of creating the film adaptation of “V for Vendetta,” but his partner Lloyd expressed admiration for the movie because it effectively copied the setting, realism, cause, and idea behind the characters and the story (Moreira 107).
The movie has fantasy, action, and thriller genre elements. The main theme is politics, so it can be described as a political thriller. The action elements are more common in the movie than in the comic book, and they were most likely added for viewer satisfaction. Finally, Moore himself explains that the element of fantasy was added because of the future setting (“Alan Moore Talks”).
The movie follows most of the conventional guidelines for its genre by considering several elements, such as emphasizing dark environments, mysterious characters, and a menacing setting, which keep the viewer tense and excited to see further developments in the story. However, it also includes some humor to lighten the mood occasionally and show that even a dark environment controlled by a tyrant has a silver lining.
The plot in V for Vendetta takes place during the 2030s and describes a totalitarian government. The world is in turmoil, and the United Kingdom is under a fascist regime that uses concentration camps to isolate undesirable citizens and violence to enforce rules on its citizens. While people are obedient, one mysterious character decides to stand up against the tyranny. The movie follows his struggle along with Evey, a girl who must become a fugitive as she is wanted because of her association with him.
V is the main character of the movie, and he remains a mystery to the viewer because his history, motives, and appearance are not disclosed. He speaks in riddles constantly, so it is possible to assume that his personality was damaged and fragmented during the course of his life. A few flashbacks that reveal his history and life at the Larkhill experimentation facility explain why, but the story in the comic books delivers more details about his past than the movie.
At the beginning of the movie, V meets Evey, a girl who accidentally crosses paths with V and must stay with him for protection after being a witness to the execution of the secret police and the destruction of the Old Bailey. However, when she learns that he is using violence to achieve justice, she escapes to live with Gordon Deitrich, who is shortly arrested for possessing the Koran and various controversial paintings and photographs. Evey is also arrested and tortures, but V was the culprit because he wanted to help her overcome fear and become stronger. Although she is angry with him and leaves, she keeps her promise to return before he ends the revolution.
Other characters worth mentioning are Eric Finch and Adam Sutler. Finch is the chief of police at Scotland Yard. With a deep insight into human psychology, Finch understands how the events will unfold in the future judging how people will act when they cannot take more abuse and when Sutler responds to their protests with force. He is a critical character to the story because while looking for V, he finds that he used to be imprisoned at Larkhill. Furthermore, he finds that the program, which was run by Adam Sutler, was used to create a virus that caused 80,000 deaths to simulate a terrorist attack, ensure the Norsefire party’s election, and transform the UK in a totalitarian state.
Adam Sutler is the head of the government. He is always displayed as an angry man on a big screen and never shown in real life. Other than being linked to a conspiracy that transformed UK into a totalitarian state, he does not show any character development or disclose personal history. The main purpose of his character is to show how perception can influence personal judgment and depict power. In contrast to his virtual appearance throughout the movie, he seems small, frightened, and insignificant when captured and delivered to V at the end of the movie.
The movie was positively received by the audience and impacted popular culture significantly. For example, the political activists of Anonymous and Occupy use the Guy Fawkes masks shown in the movie when they organize public events, so the mask eventually became a brand that speaks against political tyranny (Waites, “V for Vendetta Masks”). Originally, the masks were used to promote the movie, but now they are sold worldwide by the Rubies Costume Company, which sells around 100,000 units per year (Waites, “V for Vendetta Masks”).
In the entire movie, several meta-narratives are challenged, including morality and religion. The movie also references several postmodernist meta-narratives, such as the perception of reality, manifestation of human sexuality, human rights, humanity, and sanctity. Finally, the movie brings up the morality of violence as the method for achieving justice and the definition of justice from V’s perspective as key dilemmas.
Humanity is one of the universal virtues recognized in all cultures worldwide (Peterson and Seligman 28). V follows the virtue of humanity, but he also demonstrates violence throughout the movie. Confucius defines humanity as altruistic love for others, and V is clearly somebody who is making a stand by helping others (Peterson and Seligman 40).
Although he is angry with the obedience and lack of power among the population, he also expresses understanding and compassion for the situation in which they gave up freedom for security during his speech in which he claims responsibility for blowing up the Old Baily. V is ready to speak his mind and take action alone until the rest of society is ready to overcome their fears and follow him.
Of course, V tells Evey that his violence was justified. However, the definition of justice depends on the viewpoint. Although the popularity of the film suggests that the viewers believed in the righteousness of V’s actions, the definition of justice depends on the viewpoint. In a legal context, his actions would be unjust. In ethics, that would depend on the framework because his actions are a form of self-sacrifice for the benefits of the population.
For example, relativism considers actions dependant on the contexts and claims there is no absolute truth. If V considers violence righteous for his plan, that belief will become his personal truth. On the other hand, deontology considers rules absolute and V breaks the Kantain Golden Rule by killing others.
However, in religion, that viewpoint would most likely contradict the fundamental concept of human life being sacred in all forms (Biletzki, “The Sacred”). Religious historian Tawney explains that belief in the importance and value of each human life is the fundamental of morality (qtd. in Biletzki, “The Sacred”). In conclusion, human dignity relies on the supposition that a human being is sacred (Biletzki, “The Sacred”).
V apparently violates the principle of the sanctity of human life. However, it is important to analyze how violence affects his cause and how his cause affects the rest of the world. The main character is not concerned with religion and his main sanctity is freedom. In particular, he means the freedom from the oppressive government. From his viewpoint, violence is justified because it helps facilitate the development of freedom.
In his defense against Evey’s accusations of using violence to reach his cause, V explains that violence is required and counters her accusation by reminding her that he had saved her life by taking the lives of several members of the secret police. While the refutation of her argument would not be generally considered correct, it does prove his point when interpreted from a different perspective.
For example, he committed murder and took several lives, but he did so to save one innocent life. If he continues killing government officials and public figures, it will also be considered moral because he is taking lives of those who assist in oppressing the population. Overall, the people he is killing do not consider life sacred because they oppress it, so V is actually violating the principle of considering human life sacred to protect it.
Although the main character does not show concern for religious matters, the topic of religion shows up briefly to depict the reach of the oppressive government. For example, Gordon was arrested and charged for possessing a Koran in addition to mocking Sutler on public television. In the totalitarian government, Islamophobia and terrorism are apparently dominant topics, and the directors wished to point out the narrow-mindedness of the ruling regime.
The position of the government on homosexuals, Islam, and terrorists is revealed at the beginning of the movie while V and Evey are getting dressed and listening to the “Voice of London” on television. However, at the same time, they reveal their faith in God and the judgment he will eventually impose on people for their actions. Despite their charismatic speech, it is evident that religion in the totalitarian system is merely a tool for frightening the people and preventing them from taking action.
Of course, several philosophical and ethical issues raised by the film remain because people have different concepts of anarchy, activism, and follow different ethical frameworks. For example, Launder suggests that V promotes only the negative side-effects of anarchism while neglecting the positive aspects that focus on building a community and giving power to the population (“’V’ Stands”). Launder argues that V is actually anti-democracy because his actions use the same principles the government uses to maintain a totalitarian regime (“’V’ Stands”).
However, the movie can also be related to Foucault’s theory on the distribution and use of power in society that states how power can be used to produce the truth or constrain it (108). While the government always constrains the truth, V is the one who produces it. For example, the news channels report V killed or the death of the “Voice of London” in a manner that does not imply terrorist actions.
On the other hand, V is the one who always speaks the truth, such as admitting to killing the “Voice of London” to Evey or admitting to blowing up the Old Bailey in front of the entire nation. Therefore, it is possible to notice that V is the one who seeks to reveal the truth and perhaps his methods can be justified when his motives and the positive consequences of his actions are taken in account.
Overall, the issue of political activism is the main theme of the movie. However, the solution proposed in the movie is limited to violence rather than expanding ideas, such as creating an alternative system and slowly developing it alongside an existing system without causing friction. However, in the absence of an alternative, it is possible to suggest that the development of V as a character was the responsibility of the regime that oppressed people and abused them in concentration camps. Therefore, the government eventually experienced the consequences of their previous deeds.
Political activism is the main theme of the movie because it is present throughout the story. However, another postmodernist meta-narrative is constantly recurring throughout the movie, and it is the principle of integral reality described by Jean Baudrillard (17). According to Baudrullard, objective reality is becoming obsolete because of the advancements in technology and social trends.
On one hand, integral reality does not have any limits in terms of realization and materialization, but Baudrullard notes that it is also a reality without a principle or final purpose (18). In “V for Vendetta,” the entire purpose of the government is to create a false reality in which people can feel secure, but at the same time, they should also give away their freedom in return for a false sense of security. After all, the same government who offered security was the one who staged the terrorist attacks to enforce fear and their totalitarian rule in the state.
Another example is the depiction of Adam Sutler. Chancellor Sutler always appears on a television screen. In a way, reality is being replaced with virtual reality, but it is also important to note how frightening and powerful Sutler looks behind the screen. People fear the government for that reason alone, but in reality, when V captures him, he is a simple human being who is frightened for his life just like everybody else. Rather than knowing objective reality, people are starting to believe that reality exists (Baudrullard 20). While Baudrullard’s theory mainly refers to the consumer society, it can also be applied to the totalitarian state structure and any other form of creating an illusion for the sake of hiding reality.
Baudrillard, Jean. The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. Berg, 2005. Print.
Biletzki, Anat. “The Sacred and the Humane.” On the Human. On the Human: A Project of the National Humanities Center, 17 July 2011. Web. 28 March 2013.
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Vintage Books, 1980. Print.
Launder, William. “’V’ Stands for Very Bad Anarchist Movie.” Web Archive. Columbia News Service, 2 May 2006. Web. 28 March 2013.
Moreira, Pedro. "Overthrowing Vengeance: The Role of Visual Elements in V for Vendetta." Spaces of Utopia 4(2007): 107-112.
Moore, Alan. “Alan Moore Talks - 01 - V for Vendetta.” Online video interview. YouTube. YouTube 14 October 2007. Web. 28 March 2013.
Peterson, Christopher, and Martin EP Seligman. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
Sperling, Nicole, and Christine Spines. Hidden ‘Invasion.’ Entertainment Weekly, 10 August 2007. Web. 28 March 2013.
V for Vendetta. Dir. James McTeigue. Perf. Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, and Rupert Graves. Warner Bros, 2005. DVD.
Waites, Rosie. “V for Vendetta Masks: Who’s Behind Them?” BBC News 20 October 2011: n. pag. Web. 28 March 2013.