V for Vendetta Bleeds Orwellian Dystopia

20130601-231400.jpg Credit: slogr.com

James McTeigue directs what I would suggest is a powerful re-imagining of George Orwell’s (Eric Blair’s) 1984. Many of us had the pleasure of reading the novel and all its eerie glory in high school. Portentous and incredibly disturbing, it serves as a warning for all future generations to avoid falling into the void of complacency when it comes to government. When a government fails to represent the interests of its people, its legitimacy vanishes. It seems to me a vicious cycle when a coups d’etat only leads to the establishment of a centralized government where one individual has supreme power. Won’t this inevitably lead to future uprisings? This is why V says governments should be afraid of their people, not the other way around. This all smacks of Marx, yet it was he who said, “they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented. Their representative must at the same time appear as their master…” in 1852 regarding the French peasantry living under Bonaparte’s reign. Though it is agreed that these people were marginalized and lacked the resources to make their voices heard, it seems presumptuous at the least, despotic at worst, to appoint ourselves as their “betters,” capable of ruling over them benignly and without a shred of self-interest. A recipe for continued disaster, I’d say.
The movie evokes the descent into complete helplessness that 1984 builds, though ending on a hopeful note. The setting and backstory for the movie are dead-on to the book, though the plot and characters are fundamentally different. The populace in the movie are living, breathing drones, resigned to their fate. But with his devilish charisma, V invites them to simply “look into the mirror” when looking for someone to blame. The bystanders are far more dangerous than the villains, because they can do something, but choose not to. It is far easier to sit back and accept your fate as someone else writes it, than to rise up and reclaim your life.
The performances are also spectacular, with Hugo Weaving giving the man behind the mask real substance. His voice captivates your senses. Natalie Portman (whom I love–if only because she studied Psychology at Harvard–oh and she’s an awesome actress to boot) took my body and mind into hers as she lived through the fear, the torture, and the re-birth. In the novel, Winston does not experience a rebirth after the suffering. They take his humanity from him, whereas Evey reclaims hers. It is one of the most tragic endings I’ve ever read, and it doesn’t even involve his death. Indeed, some things are far worse than death.
As with all good movies (and books), this is one where you will discover a number of hidden nuances each time you watch it.

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