Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Feminist Fangirl Reviews V for Vendetta

I, The Feminist Fangirl have been waiting for a very long time for this film to come out, so that I could review it. To be more specific, I have been waiting impatiently since November the 5th of 2005 (the original intended release date.)

I suppose that V could have gone terribly wrong, had a less capable cast and crew undertaken the project. I mean, did anyone see “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?” Right. Me neither.

So I was pleasantly surprised to be totally enthralled by this movie. Clearly the argument that it forwards, regarding the role of government, the nature of the totalitarian state, and the importance of civil liberties in society is a vitally important one for our time. The parable that Alan Moore concocted during the height of Thatcherism, and which the Watchowskis have adapted in order to reflect the current political situation in the United States, is the central narrative of the film and must be addressed as such. However, I’m not sure how much room for debate and discussion is built into the film’s political plot. Just as Deitrich’s wartime slapstick routine is only comedy in the broadest sense, so too does this film point its finger at the administration with the heaviest of hands. Now is not the time for subtlety, and this is not a subtle film.

So, I propose a discussion of the perhaps more nuanced relationships between the film’s characters. Some will say that this film is difficult because it hypothesizes that terrorism is a justifiable reaction to governmental oppression. They are right to a certain extent, except that V’s revolution is a bloodless one, or rather; it is a revolution without collateral damage. The acts of terrorism that occur in the public sphere (i.e. V’s demolition of the Old Bailey and of the houses of parliament) are safe, done with artistic panache and under cover of night.

Perhaps what is most unstable and unsafe about this film is V’s act of personal terrorism against Evey. The torture and annihilation of self which she experiences at his hands in the second act is disturbing, but our reaction to it depends on how we choose to interpret it. Is this annihilation, or catharsis? Consider this paradigm: what seems to be a misogynistic act of aggression when perpetrated by one’s enemy becomes an act of love when it is committed by a ‘friend’. This is a dangerous justification of abuse. Somehow though, at the close of the film, I felt satisfied with the ending in spite of this difficult plot point…but why?

I think that the answer lies in my reaction to Natalie Portman, the actress. In her most memorable films, Portman (who is, after all, a heartbreakingly beautiful skinny little white girl) always represents that which is fragile and ‘at stake’. In Closer and the recent Star Wars films, Portman’s destruction is either cynical and nihilistic (Closer), or unexplained and devoid of meaning (“for reasons we do not understand…we are losing her,”…barf.) So perhaps it is ultimately cathartic for Portman’s audience to see her destroyed and reborn in a way which is resoundingly meaningful.

In the first act of V, Evey is vulnerable, and uselessly feminine. Her character is contantly either evading the threat of penetration, or being rescued and waking up in soft beds. It would seem then, that V empowers her, by liberating her from her hair, and with it her kittenlike sexuality, and replacing it with Zenlike androgyny. This is a bit of a “Matrix” moment, and it also represents V’s remaking of Evey in his own image (remember that he too is hermaphroditic, as he contains within himself the personage of that glamorous lesbian, Valerie).

I see fairy tales everywhere, and I think that the symbolism in V (The language of roses, and mirrors, for example, as well as the dance of separation and return between Evey and V) conjures strong images of Beauty and the Beast. At the end of the fairy tale, Beauty kisses the Beast, and thereby restores him to princely form. Here too, we see a cinematic kiss in the third act, but it is a kiss of another kind. With that kiss, Evey awakens something, not in V, but in herself. Has she awakened the Beast, or the prince and heir to a new kingdom? What I like most about this film is that it leaves its audience liberated and free to imagine the consequences. Certainly Evey lives up to her namesake, as the “first woman,” and beside her, is a stoic Stephen Rhea, whom, (thanks to much collaboration with Neil Jordan) we are already primed to accept as an appropriate counterpart for the lovely androgyne.


Blogger J.H. said...

Great review :) I also really liked this movie. It took me a long time to decide weather or not what V did to Evey was good or bad in my opinion. In the end, I see why he did it and that it was an act of love on his part.

6:56 PM  

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