James McTeigue’s 2005 film, ‘V For Vendetta,’ starring Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala from Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III) and Hugo Weaving (Elrond, The Lord of the Rings trilogy), is set in a nightmarish future Britain, about thirty years from now.
The film appears to be contextualized in the anti-totalitarian tradition established by and maintained by English novel writers like Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and George Orwell (nineteen eighty-four). At a deeper level and much broader, the film could be viewed in the context of anarchism as the film is resilient with themes of rebellion, egalitarianism, and the tendency for subordinate humans to challenge their domineering overlords.
In the film, events have unfolded that have lead to the decline of the United States as the major world power. Set late in the third decade of the twenty-first century, the British appear to be living under the iron fist of a totalitarian state, one that is hellbent on control and coercion. Similar to the way that British novelist George Orwell depicted ‘Big Brother’ in his mid-twentieth century novel ‘nineteen eighty-four,’ the British government in ‘V For Vendetta’ is also depicted, as lying, murderous, and oppressive. But unlike Orwell, McTeigue represents hope in his work through effective resistance, lead mainly by one mysterious character.
Like Winston Smith in Orwell’s novel, one man (played by Weaving), only named ‘V,’ is not content to simply live his life as a victim of state oppression. Disfigured at the hands of the state, ‘V,’ a comic book type hero, remains faceless throughout the film. He adorns a mask and, like a superhero that can’t be taken down, at times ‘V’ appears to be seemingly invincible. Using Guy Fawkes, the man who tried to blow up British Parliament in 1605, as his role model ‘V’ attempts to rally, through speech and example, the British public to his cause of overthrowing the tyrannical British state.
Although the film could be criticized for appearing to legitimize violence for political gains, this would be a mistake. Not only are there representations of non-violent forms of resistance, genuine violence against the British regime is not absolutely political in nature: ‘V’ appears to be attacking the government as a form of self defence and even revenge.
Overall the film’s message is, not one of violence and hate, but one of hope, solidarity, love, acceptance, and freedom.
The film can be purchased at the following websites: