For Resistance Day on We Make Movies on Weekends, we look back on a famed Graphic Novel adaptation. Set in a future dystopia of Britain, where a totalitarian Government has taken control. Lone freedom fighter/anarchist V uses the guise of Guy Fawkes to inspire revolution amongst the people.
Remember, Remember the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason, why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.
Across England, every fifth of November, crowds gather and watch firework displays. We bob for apples and set fire to Guy Fawkes effigies. This is now seen as a night of celebration and festivities but the root of the celebration is to remember one individual, who set out to change the course of history. V for Vendetta is a thrilling film that aims to remind its audience of the origin of bonfire night. We follow the revolutionist V, a Guy Fawkes for the new Millennium, on his quest to bring freedom to a future dystopian Britain.
Set in an uncompromising vision of the future, where America is in ruins and Britain is ruled by a fascist Government. We meet Evey (Natalie Portman), a young woman who is caught out after curfew by ‘fingermen’ of the secret police. Attempting to assault her, the two are foiled by a masked man called V (Hugo Weaving). V, modelled on the activist Guy Fawkes, takes Evey to watch as he destroys the Justice building, in an act of rebellion against the state. V then declares a vendetta on the Government, asking all citizens to stand by his side on the fifth of November. His plan, to destroy The Houses of Parliament and finish the gunpowder plot of Guy Fawkes. Evey is drawn into the plot when she helps V escape the police but can she find the courage to stand by his side.
The screenplay was adapted by The Wachowski siblings. The pair wrote a draft screenplay back in the nighties, before they directed The Matrix. They remembered the screenplay and returned to it once their trilogy was complete. They also served as producers on the film but decided to hand directing duties over to James McTeigue, who had served as assistant director on The Matrix films.
The film is based upon the Graphic Novel of the same name, penned by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Moore, who is famed for such graphic novels as Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen refused to put his name to the film and distanced himself from the project. This is no surprise as due to unsuccessful adaptations of earlier works, such as From Hell, Moore objects to his novels becoming films. Vendetta, although maintaining themes and characters of the original work, is not faithful to is source material. Certain changes made by the writers were done to move the work into a modern political setting but Moore felt this was an unnecessary decision.
Despite its author’s objection to the production, Vendetta is a brilliant film. The film rings with such modern truths about Government rule and the power of fear. It quickly builds up a dystopian image of Britain and establishes a solid context. A Government that seized power after a virus outbreak and used the fear to created a fascist regime.
November Fifth is the night that a man, known as Guy Fawkes, was foiled in his attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. His aim was too kill the ruling Government and begin a revolution of England. V For Vendetta, uses the gunpowder plot as a key theme in the film. V not only models his persona on Fawkes but uses his unfinished plot to inspire the ruled over citizens to rebel. This use of a historical event gives the film an added depth. The audience have pre-understood knowledge and watch as V plays out his version of events.
The look of the film and a future London is toned down and dreary with little colour. This adds to the incarcerated feeling of the citizens and was a deliberate decision by the film makers, to symbolise the country’s woes. The few uses of colour in the film are usually in relation to V’s acts of rebellion or in flash back sequences to signify nostalgia. This adds to the appeal of V as a character. When he enters a scene he brings colour, charisma and hope with him.
The films two opposing leads intrigue the audience as such different characters come together to fight. Hugo Weaving is an interesting actor. He has major roles in The Matrix as well as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy but has managed to retain his every man quality. As well as major studio films he has a prominent background in theatre, which shows in his performance as V. The character never removes his mask or alters his uniformed clothing but through Weaving’s authoritarian and dignified voice you feel his every intention. His character has been stripped of an identity to present him as an idea. Although you may question his actions he is a force to be reckoned with through out the film. His sometime difficult dialogue is delivered with ease yet gusto that only an actor of his poise could achieve. Whether or not the role is accurate to its original Graphic Novel form, Weaving plays V superbly.
It is impossible to talk about Natalie Portman without stating what a talented actress she is. Able to inhabit complicated characters and convey any state or emotion on screen. Portman not only donned a very impressive English accent in the film but agreed to have her head shaved for the role. Portman portrays Evey’s development in the film, from scared young woman to rebellious freedom fighter, brilliantly.
One criticism that will be labelled at the film is that it is not faithful to its subject material. As well as moving the setting from post Thatcher’s Britain to twenty years in the future,
the roles of the main characters are dramatically altered. V’s main aim in the Graphic Novel is anarchy not freedom. Evey is also not a working class girl getting by on her own but in fact a prostitute. For fan’s of the comic it may be a disappointment but as a stand alone film it is a thrilling watch.
So for those who wish to rediscover the true meaning of bonfire night as well as how to start a revolution then V for Vendetta will not let you down.