09th Dec 2006

V for… well, something or other

Finally got round to watching the film version of V for Vendetta. The comic is a superb piece of work, the film less so. When I first heard they’d got Hugo Weaving to play V, I imagined him delivering the line “I’m not your father, Evey. Your father is dead.” and smiled. But that line’s not in the film. Neither is most of what’s good about the book.

In the book, the government is fascist, and V is an anarchist. In the film, the government is surrounded by fascist imagery, but is not explicitly called fascist, and the only character to mention anarchy is an armed robber. V is driven purely by personal revenge, and realises the futility of it when he falls in love. Falls in love! What? They even have an utterly laughable scene where Evey kisses his mask.

The point of opposing fascism with anarchism is that they’re both extremes, single principles elevated to the status of an ideology – order vs freedom. It’s obvious that, if asked to choose between the two, Alan Moore would opt for freedom, but he doesn’t shy away from depicting V’s extremism. He kills, tortures and brainwashes for freedom, just as the fascist government kills, tortures and brainwashes for order. The film ignores that, and while V still kills, tortures and brainwashes, it’s only out of rage, and somehow he’s a good guy despite that.

The film also turns the Leader, Adam Susan, into the High Chancellor, Adam Sutler, and a less subtle name they couldn’t have chosen. The lonely, terrified man determined to impose order on a bewildering world becomes an identikit ranting demagogue, the kind of  “one-dimensional nazi baddy” that Moore was determined to avoid.

Evey, also lonely, terrified and searching for certainty in the book, has no comprehensible motivation in the film. V’s torture and brainwashing of her is re-created almost shot-for-shot, but for no discernible purpose. In the book, V does this because he wants to “set her free”, make her see the world like he does and act accordingly. In the film, what?  Something about not wanting her to be scared anymore?  And newly set free, she leaves him, hides, watches TV and does nothing. Makes no sense.

Go read the book. It’s actually good, not that you’d get that impression from watching this.

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