Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#418: V for Vendetta (2005)

Director: James McTeigue
Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving & Stephen Rea

After the fall of the United States, England is taking extraordinary measures to maintain civility. All people of non-English (and non-hetero) background have become outcasts. A curfew is set, but young Evey needs to visit her friend Deitrich and risks it. She is soon stopped in an alley by two threatening corrupt policemen. She is saved by a stranger in a Guy Fawkes mask presenting himself as "V". He brings her to the top of a building to hear what he calls a concert, which turns out to be the bombing of the Old Bailey, with the 1812 Overture blasted through the streets through the government's city-wide PA system.

Evey becomes the target of the government, being caught on CCTV. At her office, the TVs stop their normal broadcast, and Evey sees V once again on the screen. He announces that the government must be stopped, and calls for the people of England to march on Parliament on Guy Fawkes Day in one year to bomb the building, as Guy Fawkes planned centuries ago. When the broadcast is over, government officials enter Evey's office. She narrowly evades their 'black bags', being saved once again by V, who brings her back to his underground hiding place. Meanwhile, Inspector Finch discovers disturbing information while investigating V's past, leading him to doubt everything he led to believe about the government he serves.

There is no doubt that this is Natalie Portman's best performance of her career. Her emotional breakdown is remarkable, and I've never seen somebody cry more convincingly on screen. I would really love to see her in a slasher flick - she would definitely add a huge sense of dread through her absolute terror.

The representation of Britain in this film is absolutely disturbing, especially due to how believable it all is. The use of CCTV all over London in real life is already considered highly invasive, though there's no end of its use in sight. The election of BNP members to the EU Council is also a step towards the London represented in the film, with their discrimination against non-English peoples.

This film has hit home for Americans as well as the British. Though most Americans can't relate to the issues going on abroad, this film is probably the first to really push on the possibility that the fall of the World Trade Center could have been planned by the US Government itself. Of course, this will probably never be proven, but this film shows how and why it could have been done.

It's clear that this film did something right. How many Americans do you think knew who Guy Fawkes even was before this film came out? And how many Facebook statuses did you see this year on November 5 reading "remember, remember the fifth of November"?The film deserves its wide recognition, and I hope McTeigue keeps his career going (though his second, very recent film release - Ninja Assassin - isn't getting much praise).

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • Natalie Portman looked forward to shaving her head totally bald for the role of Evey Hammond during the torture scenes, stating that she has wanted to do it for a long time. For the shaving scene, the crew and the shaving guys had only one take to do it.
  • The Houses of Parliament destroyed in the film are not the same buildings which Guy Fawkes planned to destroy in 1605. The original Parliament buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1834. The current buildings are built on the same site and took 30 years to build, finishing in 1870. They were largely destroyed again in World War Two and rebuilt to the original design in the late 1940s.
  • The scenes near the end that take place in an abandoned London Underground station were actually filmed at Aldwych, a branch from the Piccadilly line that was closed in 1994. The branch still has its tracks and current rails, allowing an operational train to be used in the scene.
  • V's pseudonym, "Rookwood", is the last name of another conspirator at the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, as are the names of Rookwood's friends "Percy" and "Keyes".
  • In the original graphic novel, V's cause was anarchy, not freedom. Alan Moore was specifically and harshly critical of the movie for changing what he called the "anarchy vs. fascism" structure of his graphic novel into what he saw as an exploration of "American neo-liberalism vs. American neo-conservatism" that should have been thusly set in the U.S. instead of Britain.
  • The name Evey is pronounced EV, with E being the fifth letter of the alphabet, V being five in Latin and Y being the 25th letter (5 squared)
  • On a clock that has an hour hand and a minute hand, the time 11:05 makes a V. These two numbers, 11 and 5, where 11 is November, and 5 is the day of November, spell out: the fifth of November. "Remember, remember the 5th of November."
  • The building used for the wide-angle shot of Evey on the balcony actually exists, although certain architectural details were digitally modified. It is located at 1 Cornhill, London, and is just across the street from the Bank of England.
  • All of V's dialogue was recorded via ADR. Initially, a mask was designed with a small microphone inside it and another mike was designed to sit along the hair line of actor Hugo Weaving, but neither worked very well.

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