|'continues to have power ten years on... unpicking the intricacies of the film's politics is no simple job'|
A property that only seems to get more relevant with age, James McTeigue and The Wachowski's adaptation of V For Vendetta, Alan Moore and David Lloyd's graphic novel, continues to have power ten years on. Taking as its starting point the 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' conceit, this is a layered, considered examination of governmental power, even if it does happen to take place in a slightly unrecognisable, dictator-led Britain.
Unpicking the intricacies of the film's politics is no simple job. A liberal reading would highlight that V (Hugo Weaving) campaigns against a fascist-like dictator (John Hurt), who suppresses and influences his citizens and the news in order to maintain the power of 'the party'. Notably, it is made explicit that Adam Sutler (Hurt) is a former member of the Conservatives, emphasising the film's left-leaning politics. In reality, the situation of V For Vendetta is more complex and McTeigue knows it. V is less passive activist, or reactionary campaigner, more skilled, mass-murdering superhero. During the course of the film he blows up two buildings in the name of his cause. At best, his methods against an admittedly benevolently evil state are controversial, but of course McTeigue and all involved know that.
With that fact admitted, V For Vendetta plays extremely similarly to the more recent Four Lions. This is a 'what if' scenario, just similar enough to our own situation to make us, firstly, sit up and take notice and secondly, ask some questions of those above us that are more reasonable than announcing our arrival by blowing up the Old Bailey. On the surface V For Vendetta is violent revolution but in actuality it advocates realisation and not sleepwalking into chaos. V even tells us and the masses of the film at one point that our crime of ignorance, of enabling this situation through inaction, can be forgiven if we can now just get off our arses and do something about it. In a country where the turnout for the last General Election was just 65%, this ticks several relevance boxes.
With message established, the production is sometimes open to a level of questioning. Owen Paterson's production design is sparse at best, at worst, basic and budget-limited. The thing everyone remembers about V For Vendetta is the Matrix-esque knife fights, as bullet-time blades swing through the air towards their targets. In truth, they are hardly here. The action is severely limited: this is, remember, a political drama which happens to have a violent protagonist. It is not a beautiful film.
It is though an important and relevant contemporary one, with plenty to say to 2015's generation, as it did to 2005's. It is complex material and its creators know this. If only they could have found a little bit more polish to explore their ideas.
V For Vendetta was playing on Sky Go, Now TV and other Sky online platforms.