Welcome to the Pile of Shame. Throughout my years of ceaseless debauchery and frankly worrying video game addiction, I missed out on movies that many consider classics. If you’ve ever asked someone if they watched a certain movie and gasped when they said they never did, you know what type of guy I am. I figured that it’s pretty silly that someone like me who lacks the appropriate historical movie education is allowed to write on such an esteemed movie website as ours, and have since created a pile of classic movies that I will work through in order to achieve true enlightenment. This series will be my chronicle through it and you’re more than welcome to tag along. Also, expect some spoilers in there, if you haven’t watched these films already.
When a simple movie manages to become a symbol of revolution and justice through vigilantism, you often pay attention. We’ve all seen the masks, we’ve all seen the quotes and the many t-shirts I’ve witnessed throughout my life that featured a masked crusader with a wide grin and happy eyes told me that V for Vendetta was a movie I should totally watch. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to, but thanks to the Pile, I’ve finally gained the context for this landmark film and why it had such an effect on anarchy and the reforming of human culture. Moreover, it’s a movie that ties together with our time in the world right now, where reality TV stars are threatening nuclear warfare and corporations are trying their damn best to censor free thought.
In its purest form, V for Vendetta is an action movie with a twist of social commentary. It follows a masked vigilante within a totalitarian world where everything is censored and people deemed as “undesirables” are executed en masse in order to maintain “purity”. There are many correlations that you can make to World War 2 era Nazism and oh would you look at that, Nazis have been all over the news recently for some reason.The vigilante known simply as V is a highly intelligent, highly capable and highly dangerous revolutionary that thinks 20 steps ahead of his fierce opposition and believes in reform through destruction. Complete anarchy, if you will.
There’s also Evey Hammond, a woman caught in V’s plans and goes on a wild ride with him as he prepares his ultimate and final attack. She goes through all manners of hell throughout the story because of V, but by the end, she reveres him in the highest light. I felt like the complicated “love” story between V and Evey was a little hamfisted at times, but the overarching premise and final payoff more than made up for that. Natalie Portman did a great job of portraying Evey who, while being entangled in this whole mess, responds quite differently to what one would expect. She doesn’t just take everything at face value and even actively resists V’s radical ideas, giving her character some much-needed dynamism.
V for Vendetta is a tough movie to accurately sum up and talk about because there are so many ideological ideas that you can potentially discuss. The Orwellian nature of the English government is particularly interesting as it takes a familiar location and places it under extreme duress. On the surface, things look relatively okay considering all the awful injustices that are going on. English people are going about their normal days doing normal day jobs and the environment looks no worse for wear. However, we get to see the rampant censorship and ethnical genocide that happens through the shadowy government pulling strings and cracking down on the general populace.
The overarching themes and implications are what made the movie for me. It set out to challenge the status quo and deliver something that is intelligently designed to make you think about what the powers to be are actually doing. Taking away evocative art, taking away people’s freedoms, crafting the media to their specific agenda and brainwashing the general populace. All of these can be their own lines of discussion since there are comparisons that you can make to our world both current and old. However, in fear of this becoming a massively political article that deals with things that I don’t quite understand, I’ll just stick with discussing the movie as it is.
V’s character is a fascinating one as he is drenched in mystery throughout the entirety of the film and given his wild abilities, also doesn’t even appear to exactly be human. The action scenes involving him are a joy to watch as he becomes a flourish of knives and brutal takedowns while dancing all over his opponents. His origin and reasons for vengeance are quite tragic and his general veneer shows one of a stalwart hero that is suffering greatly internally thanks to his past. When he started assassinating all of the instigators of his pain, it was also a progression and elucidation of the story and overall context of the world. When the stunning final conclusion came, I felt a sense of satisfaction because no threads were left dangling and most of the mysteries have been solved.
There’s also the smaller moments that make the movie special. The entire story of Valerie Page was heartwarming as well as heartbreaking and extremely progressive for a story that happened in 2005. Gordon Deitrich’s apartment that is filled with “contraband” which are just books, paintings and other pieces of art that mirrors V’s lavish hideout. It showed us that people will go to great lengths in order to preserve their humanity, even if the penalty is death. Finch’s entire arc was well crafted as he went from an opposer to a bit of a sympathiser by the end as he learned all of the truths surrounding his superiors.
There are problems with the movie, which were picked up on by the critics who gave it quite the lambasting when it initially released. It can become too verbose for its own good at times and stumble in the writing and there are a few missteps with the cinematography. However, I couldn’t really understand the ire that it was given by these critics as I found V for Vendetta to be an evocative and entertaining watch that made me think about our world. It probably had the same effect on the people who now wear the mask as a political symbol as they cause anarchy in the name of justice. There are endless debates surround anarcho-capitalism and the morality of vigilante justice that can potentially be had, but the fact remains that our world is often managed by pure evil with the intent to control. Being resistant to that isn’t the worst thing in the world.
And let’s not forget, remember remember, the 5th of November.
I wish I wrote this article on the 5th of November…
The Pile of Shame is going nowhere! Next week I’m tackling a recent movie that has been on my mind for quite a while and that’s Your Name.
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