Thursday, June 15, 2017

V For Vendetta

Having seen this film numerous times since its release, V for Vendetta has been the basis of what I think of when I think of cinematic modern revolution. It is famous for its idea, although not unique, that ideas cannot be killed and are in fact “bulletproof”. Taking place in England during what appears to be somewhat modern times the depicted world is a rather frightening one where a Hitler like leader maintains oppressive control over the country using technology survey the population. This state of oppression was not implemented through violence or hostile takeover. Chancellor Sutler was voted into office by overwhelming margin during a time of panic. A pandemic was sweeping England and in that climate of chaos the public looked for a strong man figure to bring back the safety and stability that they craved. Again this story seems to be reflective of the conditions that resulted in Nazi Germany. A terrorist referred to as “V” wears a Guy Fawkes mask in reference to a man from the 1600s that tried to blow up the Parliament building. As the plot develops the viewer learns what motivates V. He covers himself completely not just to maintain anonymity due to his rogue status but also because he had been horribly burned. While held captive in a facility that was set up to work on finding a cure for the disease, V was burned in a fire that destroyed the facility and set him free of it. Over the course of the film V seeks revenge on the people responsible not just for what happened to him at that facility but for the others that died there. The end of the film is where everything comes together and one scene in particular proves that V is not motivated by his own interests and that revenge is maybe only a secondary motivation. He shows Evey the train that he has loaded with explosives with the express purpose of destroying the Parliament building. At this point V has killed most of those on his hit list and leaves Evey with the decision of whether or not to pull the lever to set the train in motion. V says that the old world, the world he belongs to, is over and a new world is beginning. As Evey belongs to this new world and V does not it should be her who makes the decision to destroy the Parliament building. V then goes on his way to finish off the two individuals remaining on his list and leaves Evey to it. Predictably Evey ends up pulling the lever but not after V returns to her dying upon completing his final two assassinations.
                V for Vendetta is a drama with a substantial amount of ideology and meaning behind it. One cannot help but hope for the “terrorist” to succeed and to destroy the oppressive government that is oppressing its people. This feeling is increased upon learning that the key government officials¸ the same officials who found themselves on V’s hit list, were involved in the release of the pathogens that resulted in the pandemic and created the demand for a strong man figure to save them and return their sense of security at any cost. One cannot help but draw parallels between the government in the movie and the one in real life. While obviously not nearly as oppressive and blatant as the government in the movie, our government also uses technology for intelligence gathering on its own citizens and particularly watches those with messages and activism that may threaten the status quo. Certainly with the election of Donald Trump and those who refer to him and his supporters as fascists this film seems even more relevant than at the time that it came out.
                This is probably my third or fourth time watching V for Vendetta but this time my perspective of the film was a little different. This time the film seemed to have more of a Marxist them. Suggesting rebellion against the oppressive elites by the common man seemed to be a primary theme. The political elite had ties to the pharmaceutical company that both created the pandemic and cured it. They then became political leaders in the government that followed the incident. It seems obvious that the government depicted in this film was supposed to be a fascistic one. Specific scenes in V for Vendetta toward the end of the film really seemed to show more Marxist themes. Scenes that showed citizens wearing Guy Fawkes masks and performing acts of civil disobedience such as spray painting graffiti on government signs seemed revolutionary in nature. There was also a scene where a massive number of people wearing those masks flooded the streets in opposition to what the government was doing and likely seizing control of the government. The masks made everyone from all different backgrounds unified and indistinguishable. Instead of individuals they were all equal faceless agents of the same cause. V himself is accused by the government of being a terrorist but you start to question early on if he really is or if he is justified in doing what he is doing (Clowry, 2012). Instead it is very possibly for one side’s terrorist to be the other side’s hero. It becomes clear that despite government’s best efforts to convince the public that V was an enemy of the people, V was actually dedicating his life to waking up and then freeing those people.
                As I stated earlier, the regime that is depicted in V for Vendetta is very reminiscent of the Third Reich. As was noted by Delueze and Guattari when mentioning the different types of War Machines, a state can sometimes become a War Machine formed from the social formations that go on to take over the state itself like in Nazi Germany (Deuchars, 2011). Indeed Nazi Germany became the very definition of a War Machine. The Government in V for Vendetta was not expansionist like Nazi Germany but had the same types of technology driven domestic surveillance and the same active suppression that was present in Germany but also in Soviet Russia and most other authoritarian states. However, on the other side of things characters like V and Evey were nomads in their world. By gaining the support of what was presumably a large part of the population of England, they were able to instigate their own War Machine through a sort of grassroots organizing in order to return to a state of freedom and get back to a smooth space.

- Clowry, A. (2012, July 06). The Cultural and Political Impact of V for Vendetta. Retrieved June 15, 2017, from

- Deuchars, Robert, “CreatingLines of Flight and Activating Resistance: Deleuze and Guattari’s War Machine”, in AntePodium, Victoria University Wellington, 2011


  1. That's a provoking question you raise from the film: was V really a terrorist, and what defines terrorism? I can't help but notice the parallels between the High Chancellor's government and our own, even if the sinister effects are more systematized and hidden. Wouldn't we call someone like V a terrorist on our own soil (and don't we)? Which makes me wonder if any of the "terrorist" the US Government is hunting abroad don't have equally valid sides to the story.

    1. That is probably true that we would. It seems that anyone who threatens to disrupt the status quo in an abrupt and especially if in a violent manner would be labeled a terrorist regardless of their side of the story.