V for Vendetta

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is its vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished, as the once vital voice of the verisimilitude now venerates what they once vilified. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”

Thus the terroristic protagonist (Hugo Weaving) of V for Vendetta introduces himself, to which Evey (Natalie Portman) replies, “Are you like a crazy person?”

V for Vendetta posterMy sister and I went to see this film last night due to its months of hype, fabulous poster artwork, and of course, Natalie Portman in a non-Star Wars film for the first time in years. Ü It was a fun cinematic romp (it really looked like a graphic novel come to life) that also offered some philosophical questions. For me the main questions were: Who decides what labels we place on people? What are the right methods to bring social problems to the public’s attention, if normal means like voting and voicing dissenting opinion are no longer options, a la George Orwell’s 1984? V uses bloody assassinations and an armed takeover of a television station to make people pay attention to what he has to say, and in the end he manage to rouse the people of Britain to overthrow their government. (This overthrow is successful because the Hydra’s head has already been lopped off, but I digress…) This comes amid a general outburst of lawbreaking, supposedly a reaction against the heavy-handed oppression.

Dominic: “We’re under siege here. The whole city’s gone mad!”
Finch: “This is exactly what he [V] wants.”
Dominic: “What?”
Finch: “Chaos.”

It is often assumed to be a messy business to determine what actions that may be labeled “terrorist,” as actions that could be classified under that label have indirectly contributed to liberty’s cause (the Boston Tea Party is one often-cited example). People’s sympathies can be won using actions that harm or kill people — by a charismatic, well-read and well-spoken leader such as V, and by a slick argument that presents violence as the only option left against a totally evil government.

But does the end justify the means? What determines right and wrong? Is it popular opinion, which can be swayed by demagogues? Is it the country’s law, which can be perverted by lawmakers with vested interests? Is it personal morality, which amounts to anarchy and chaos? Or is it a higher law that respects the sanctity of life and liberty?

Happy endings like that of V for Vendetta are what only celluloid can deliver. The fade-to-black tells us “And they all lived happily ever after,” but effectively avoids having to show us how.

(V for Vendetta quotes from IMDB.com)

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