The fifth of November…
Let's start this shindig by reviewing the fact that I love melodrama. My first stage crush was going to the Indiana Repertory Theatre at the tender age of 13 to see Dracula. The actor had such presence; the story, such mystique. To this day that type of confident, swashbuckling performance completely captivates me. So it took about 10 seconds for me to fall for the man in the mask. The sound is great too- the subwoofer and bass shakers had a workout!
My knee-jerk reaction to the costuming and central man-in-mask-meets-girl plot was to think of Phantom of the Opera. However, this is visual only; I see more linkage between V and the Spawn comic of the 1990s. Both fight with a curse of immense proportions; both know their death is imminent and necessary; both struggle between beauty and their self-forced obligations toward a goal. The Faust mask of V also provides more linkage: Spawn's deal with the devil mirrors some aspects of Faust.
The grinning mask could have totally ruined the movie. Hugo Weaving took this role knowing he was going to be acting and fighting with not one inch of his face or body showing. His incredible voice drives the character. During the soliloquy in the alley upon meeting Evey, he flourishes, tilts his head, and articulates perfectly. I'm sure it's voiceover work, but it is done very well. While it would never happen, I think he deserves an Academy nod for bringing just the right emotion and panache to this role without ever raising an eyebrow. It could have been a campy remake of the original graphic novel (Starsky and Hutch-style), but this film instead seeks- and succeeds- to tear at viewers as they watch. Instead of ruining the film, the mask with cheerily rosy cheeks brought a calm refinement to the choreography of the fight scenes. The fighting style is unique and downright beautiful. V's acts never seem desparate. His calculation toward his goal is frighteningly logical.
V, the victim of a horrible crime against humanity, is a psychopath. Utterly mad but still seemingly so lucid. To him, the ends justify any means at all. Evey reacts with the horror that any of us would and then with the acceptance that many of us would. He makes his terrorism strangely beautiful and elegant. As the movie unwinds and V commits more monstrous acts, he somehow becomes more endearing and human. I was ready to defend his actions when I saw what he'd done; I could feel him work his way into my consciousness without effort.
I had heard that there was controversy about this film and its parallels to our current US Administration; however, I didn't see it. Among the four of us watching together, this lively debate carried on well after the film ended. Sure, V is a terrorist and the government seeks to abolish him by any means necessary. The parallel I saw was not between the current administration and the British government of the film: I saw linkage in the fact that in the movie, the US was no longer united and was ravaged by war. I think our country has suffered from too many wars on too many fronts for over 30 years. I wouldn't limit it to any single administration, but hand the guilt to all our recent leadership. Also, the government images and characters were more Lenin-colored and Third Reich-reminiscent. There was one scene in particular the brought a cold chill upon me remembering WWII films I'd seen about concentration camp graves.
I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago but its magnificant poetry still resonates in my head. This review could be four more pages; you'll note I haven't even touched on Natalie Portman's or other actors' fantastic performances. I want to see this again to fully absorb the themes. This is a deeply engaging film that doesn't sacrifice plot for action- or vice versa.