Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Mar 18, 2006

V for Vendetta

I have to say that I really continue to enjoy watching the Wachowski Brothers in action, and this movie was no exception. All the elements of the movie come together, from the vivid and stylized imagery to the actors performances to the thematic meaning of the piece. All were thoroughly integrated, and so, it was excellent art.

Generally I cry at movies like this, but strangely I felt no urge whatsoever to cry this time. Instead, I feel amazingly joyful and uplifted, seeing all the conclusion where everything necessary happened. There was no sense of winning some temporary and transient victory against an overwhelming evil. There was no sense that so much was lost in the winning that the victory was almost not worth the price; that a long, difficult time of mending the broken pieces lay ahead.

No, this movie was about real, enduring good that can only be temporarily put down, never permanently destroyed. If the good people that fought lost something in the doing, even their lives, it was because they had discovered something that they realized they could not live without.

It is not necessary to grieve for those who know what it is to stand for freedom. By choosing to stand, they have already won.


Anonymous said...

I have yet to see this movie, but Conservatives are complaining that Islam is being glorified or at least dignified and that America is portrayed as a villian; ie that the "unneccesary" war on terrorism spread to Britian and created the dictatorship. In essence, they are arguing that the movie is a left wing propoganda film.

Is there any truth to this in your opinion.

D. Eastbrook

Jennifer Snow said...

America is mentioned, that I remember, precisely twice in the film, as an example for the need for the continuance of the theocracy/dictatorship in Britian, essentially a "We don't want to be like them".

I personally took it as one more example of the twisted propaganda machine that had created the theocracy/dictatorship in the first place. I mean, everything their media reports during the movie is false! Any dictatorship would HAVE to hate America and everything that she stood for.

So as far as I'm concerned it's not leftist propaganda, it's simply logical good sense.

Myrhaf said...

The leftist James Wolcott called the movie, "the most subversive cinematic deed of the Bush-Blair era, a dagger poised in midair." I guess he sees it as some kind of critique of Republican fascism. Or something.

On the other hand, Rule of Reason blog sees it as mindless and libertarian.

Jennifer Snow said...

Is there some reason people have forgotten that art is not the same thing as political propaganda?

Nancy said...

I'm not sure the line between art and propaganda is as solid as you portray it. Art and propaganda share a main goal -- to effect emotion, thought and/or change in the viewer.

I thought the movie was intriguing -- much better than I had expected. We especially liked the line "People should not be afraid of the government; government should be afraid of the people."

You failed to mention that all references to the U.S. in the movie were to "the former United States" -- a country that fell due to the war (presumably the one in Iraq) and other issues. (If I could remember what these other issues were, I'm sure I could make a better point here!) I think the movie's government was using these references in a much stronger way than simply "We don't want to be like them". Closer to "We're trying to protect you from that fate -- so help us trample personal liberties, ignore human rights, and centralize power in the hands of the few. And be sure to thank us, too."

Jennifer Snow said...

You could use that phrase to describe any human activity that involves other humans, Nancy. Conceptualizing means recognizing essential differences as well as similarities.

Propaganda, unlike regular art, has a didactic message and seeks to propagate a specific ideological stance. Art doesn't seek to spread an ideology, but to illustrate it.

Anonymous said...

The movie was certainly stylized, but thematically, it was terrible. So “V” adopts Guy Fawkes as his persona. That would be akin to an American dressing up as Tim McVeigh to fight some future American dictatorship Are we enshrining sectarian violence now?

And it’s not as if “V” couldn’t have supplied Londoners with 100,000 Thomas Jefferson masks instead. Oh, but that would have been a statement for something. Yet this movie is about anarchism, pure and simple.

Jennifer Snow said...

How was it about anarchism? When was anarchism portrayed? Who behaved in an anarchist manner?

Blowing up buildings does not make you an anarchist. Your motivations for blowing up those buildings do. V's motivation was to bring about the downfall and reform of a particular government that had become evil, not ALL governments on principle.

The movie was ABOUT battling oppression. In order for it to be about anarchism, V would have had to fight ANY government on principle; the idea of anarchism is that there IS no such thing as a good government, and in fact no possibility of such a thing.

Never mentioned in the movie. Art is timeless, so stop trying to shove your narrow-minded just-for-this-second views on it. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees.

Anonymous said...

>V's motivation was to bring about the downfall and reform of a particular government that had become evil, not ALL governments on principle.

I don't recall the reform part, but I do remember the vengeance. I also do recall that the movie said that government should fear its people, and not the other way around. Love Jefferson as I do, that's an anarchist tract. No one need fear a moral government, but if a moral government is in fear of its people, that’s bad news, for it probably won’t last long. A moral government is for justice, but “V” is for Vendetta.

But enough politics. What about the love angle? The “sure you beat me, shaved my head and starved me without my permission, so how about a little kiss” subplot?

Also, what about the fact that “V” would not let Evy see him without his mask. (Leaving the torture out) if “V” had have taken off his mask, revealing his cruelly savaged body and Evy kissed him nevertheless, that would have been heartbreaking—and dramatized a person acting on high values. I was totally lost by what I saw on screen though; is this like some new way to score chicks?

Jennifer Snow said...

Evey complained that she wished she wasn't afraid, so V took her literally. That was the kind of person he was. She may not have liked it, but she could respect it.

It's much like growing up in an extremely harsh family environment; you respect (and to a degree, love) the things about your family that were good for you, while still hating the things that were bad for you. It's often very difficult to sort out mixed emotions about mixed people, and V was comprised of mixed good and evil elements. Generally, the way you deal with this is a form of compartmentalization; trying to deal as strictly as you can with the good parts. It's not a GREAT solution, but usually there isn't a GREAT solution to any relationship when a degree of evil enters into it.

The thing about V, though, was that he KNEW what he was; it wasn't in him to start over and try to live. He wanted to kill, and to die. That was it. Evey recalled to him the fact that he could have chosen to turn away from that at some point in the past, but he rejected it.

That was what his refusal to take off the mask symbolized; his refusal to try to return to life and be a man instead of a symbol or a beast.

I don't think the movie contained perfect ideas (few things do, ever read Les Miserables?). I do think it was superb ART. It illustrated many conflicts that were dramatic, not merely melodramatic. All the elements, style, characterization, theme, plot, imagery, symbolism, etc. came together in a beautifully integrated whole.

It's perfectly acceptable to indicate that you personally didn't like it because it didn't speak to your sense of life. However it is not acceptable to condemn it as bad art because the artists selected for their theme what you think are bad ideas. This is what it means to evaluate art objectively, instead of on the basis of it portraying an implausible method of "scoring chicks."

Nicholas Provenzo said...

I'm kind of hurt that you don't like my movie reviews. I usually write them for the CAC website, so yes, I do typically focus on the politics. And truth be told, if “V” were an unstylized representation of its view, it wouldn’t be worth writing about at all.

Privately, I have two standards when critiquing an artwork: is what the artwork saying true, and does the art speak its truth well, even if I disagree with the artist’s message. But when I write for the Center, it’s all about the ethics and politics (and in my review of Crash, the epistemology).

Jennifer Snow said...

Goodness! I'm amazed that you think highly enough of my opinion to be hurt by it. It's not like it's worth much in any case.

I try to start with whether the artwork depicted its ideas well, THEN worry about dissecting those ideas, because I usually see a different picture of the ideas once I've dispensed with the structure.

With Crash, for instance, I didn't see a condemnation of human beings as inevitably racist and destructive, I saw the idea that racism (or any belief that people are what they are because of blood, not choice) will destroy you.

It came out even when the detective attempted to protect his brother and mother (because they were his relatives, even though they'd never done anything for him but leech) and wound up with a dead brother and a hateful mother to show for it.

With V, I realized that here is a man whose been destroyed by hate; there's nothing left of him that doesn't crave destruction and chaos. But, here's the thing, he narrowed the focus of his destructive rampage to two old buildings and the people that were intentionally evil. He didn't seek to strike out against every responsible party. He sought to open their eyes to the nature of what they were allowing.

The movie wasn't for anything, it was against, which is a common feature of ideology nowadays. It's easy to point out things that are bad and evil, it's not easy to point out an alternative that is better. V never offered one; that wasn't the point. I'm celebrating the fact that I got to see a movie that pointed correctly at the nature of evil.

Given, I'd LOVE to see a movie that also illustrated the nature of good. But you take what you can get.