V for Vendetta 3.9
The film ‘V for Vendetta’ entails London as a police state ruled by a fascist government following a world war. The protagonist and antihero who identifies himself as V, uses tactics to fight the oppressors of the world he lives in. The entirety of the film is based upon V and the citizens of London as they regain hope and freedom, just as Guy Fawkes presented on the 5th of November.
“Beneath this mask , there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.” The predominant intention in the film is that ideas are bulletproof and are used to reform society. Director James McTeigue uses the prevalence of ideas and their power to be world-changing and revolutionizing by the use of cinematography techniques.Through the use of symbolism combined with montage and mise-en-scene, the ‘Domino scene’ and the ‘Fight scene’ are carefully crafted to deliver an influential and moving entirety of the film.
Symbolism initially developed as a French literary movement in the 1880s, gaining popular credence with the publication in 1886 of Jean Moréas’ manifesto in Le Figaro. Symbolism is an effective cinematography technique used to convey emotions and ideas to the audience. The symbolism in ‘V for Vendetta’ is adamant in the Domino scene as it depicts McTeigue’s intention – that ideas are bulletproof and are used to reform society. In this scene the main objects of symbolism are the red and black dominoes in the form of a ‘V’ and the Guy Fawkes mask. The first imagery of the scene showcases V’s hand on the domino as he gently flicks it and the dominoes cascade effortlessly into a ‘perfect pattern.’ As the dominoes fall, the sound is likewise to bullets being fired; reinforcing the ideology that ideas are bulletproof and are used to reform society. The dominoes are symbolic to the falling of the corrupt UK society, yet as they fall they reform themselves as does the UK. The dominoes are also symbolic to each citizen in the UK who have been oppressed by the fascist government, they have been pushed to the ground through control and fear and yet – they have become a stronger and cohesive society by making London a better place for themselves. The domino is a motif for the plan V has and his vendetta to rebel against the government and make a stand for all who have been victims of Chancellor Adam Sutler. The domino itself is red and black on each side – the colours symbolic to passion, blood and desire; V identifies with these as he uses violence and passion as his means to gain justice. The Guy Fawkes mask V wears is symbolic and arguably the most accredited symbol in the scene. In modern society, this mask has become a symbol of anarchy and revolutionary ideas. The mask is a powerful symbol; it communicates V’s allegiance to the spirit of Guy Fawkes – the man who attempted and failed to blow up Parliament in the 16th century. The mask in this particular scene represents V’s opposition to the Norsefire government that controls England. Through the Norsefire government, and their control over England – McTeigue makes a societal reference to the control of North Korea. Both London and North Korea are similarly controlled through fear and persecution. The use of a mask in this scene and also the entirety of the film relates to the citizens in North Korea whom also wear masks to conceal their emotions, feelings and opinions toward their corrupt government systems. The similarity between the people of London and North Korea reveals how our world undergoes the same conflict and warfare. In our modern society, terrorism in the UK is prevalent as constant strikes of terror attacks and massacres are corrupting Britain – whilst North Korea continues to trap their citizens and cause immense destruction of families. The adapted graphic novel has presented a for-warning for what can happen if we as citizens do not change our perspectives and/or act upon them. The Guy Fawkes mask in this scene, not only hides V’s obscured face – it creates him to be not only an identity, but an idea. V has become an idea for people to stand for justice, and reveal the truth. People in North Korea mask themselves to conceal their identity and their true selves, and together they create ideas as citizens; seen as some manage to escape North Korea. Chancellor Adam Sutler is a direct contrast and comparison to Kim Jong-un, whom controls his citizens through means of threat, fear, and persecution – therefore this scene outlines how symbolic masks can be used literally and metaphorically to conduct ideas and revolutionise society. Both symbols of the dominoes and the Guy Fawkes mask are used in juxtaposition by the director to show the immense power of ideas, and how ideas are bulletproof and are used to reform society. These symbols entwine to create a flawless scene in which the audience feel a sense of empowerment and independence as do the citizens in the film who create a revolutionizing movement. The symbolism in the scene works together with montage and is cleverly conducted to show the importance of ideas and how powerful they can be to reform society. Montage/juxtaposition is used by shots of the dominos and events in the world placed side by side. Cutting between various shots of Inspector Finch’s monologue and the boxes of masks being shipped throughout the country – the audience see the link between each plan V has to re-shape society. At the start of the scene, V places down the first domino then switches to a shot of the parcel delivery lorrie driving, the lorrie containing boxes full of the Guy Fawkes mask that V wears. This juxtaposition shows the first part of V’s scheme as he places his first domino representing that each incident leads to another. The shot then goes to a man wearing the mask and robbing a shop, before switching to Inspector Finch as he says “this is exactly what he wants” as the shot cuts back to the masked man exclaiming “anarchy in the UK!.” These two clips are unrelated yet they are perfectly aligned to elude the viewers and create a sense of chaos in the scene. The viewers feel the panic and anxiety that the citizens of London are experiencing, by the use of montage and various unrelated shots combined. McTeigue has combined the use of montage and symbolism together – as he narrates the film by the domino’s presenting V’s scheme to demolish parliament and the corrupt government alongside Inspector Finch’s monologue. “I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It’s like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back before Larkhill. I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we’re all part of it, and all trapped by it.” Inspector Finch’s quotation taken from the montage is spoken as the camera switches to a shot of V’s domino’s aligned in a perfect ‘V’ shape showing juxtaposition between the narrative and the dominoes. Symbolism and montage are used together here as the dominoes and the montage of various shots depict a perfect pattern as each domino falls in order, and V’s affairs/schemes will fall in order to achieve a plan “we are all part of.” Throughout this scene, McTeigue has emphasized the power of ideas in society and how they have the power to change the world we live in. The power of a new idea is the engine that transforms the way we live and think – our country was founded on one. It was almost 50 years when the Philosopher Thomas Kuhn coined the term paradigm shift – the moment when our worldview fundamentally changes because of a new idea. In context of ‘V for Vendetta’ the idea that V has – to blow up Parliament, was founded on the mindset of Guy Fawkes – how he wanted to demolish a significant building as a metaphor for demolishing the corrupt government. As a result from this failed attempt on the 5th of November during the 16th century, V attains this idea of freedom and justice. V becomes an iconic idea to all the victims who have suffered the harsh brutality of the Norsefire government. Consequently – McTeigue has deliberately incorporated symbolism and montage to allow the viewers to empathize and identify with V and the citizens of London and feel a sense of empowerment because of this.
James McTeigue has successfully conveyed his overall intention in the film – that ideas are bullet proof and are used to reform society. Throughout ‘V for Vendetta’ the citizens are confronted with two truths – the truth as presented by the government through Fox News agent Lewis Prothero, and the truth presented by V. As people begin realizing that V’s truth is a lot more honest and relevant, the government tightens its grip on citizens using a combination of fear and control. However when this control gets harder and harder to exert, V continues to rebel and awake Britain to the real truth of the government’s totalitarian regime. This idea of hope and freedom that prompted the reform of London is prevalent also in the fight scene through the use of mise-en-scene and symbolism. Mise-en-scene is a narrative feature combined with every aspect in front of the camera – used to install a feeling into the audience and convey the director’s intention. Aspects of mise-en-scene particularly prevalent in the scene include camera shots, dim lighting and dialogue. The tracking/panning shots of the knives are significant as the audience follow the journey of the weapons being thrown to the target – effectively adding suspense. The close up shots of bullets falling out of the gun canisters as they hit the ground relates back to the idea – ideas are bulletproof and are used to reform society. These bullets cannot pierce through the powerful ideas of freedom or justice, they cannot kill a revolution and the bullets falling from the guns emphasize how guns only hold power when bullets are inside – people hold power when they collectively join forces and ideas.The close up shots of both Creedy and V show a direct contrast and comparison to the government and citizens – Creedy holds a gun whilst all V has is his knives and matrix gimmicks. Similarly these characters share the same fate as they both die. The long shot at the end of the scene pans to reveal what is left after the massacre – V standing alone in the dark and bodies on the ground in pools of blood. V drops his protective guard on the ground, McTeigue uses a close up shot, revealing the puncture wounds of bullets that has pierced through – creating suspense and a sense of panic as the viewers realize V is seriously injured and will die. Dim lighting is also shown in this scene, the darkness representing ideas of fear, anxiety and panic. The lighting has been deliberately darkened to create suspense and a sense of the unknown. The darkness is symbolic to concealing the truth, whilst murder and fighting occur in this space. Dim lighting is a component of mise-en-scene and allows the characters to conceal themselves – this is supported by dialogue as Creedy says “take off your mask” and V’s response is a simple “no.” V refuses to take off his mask and reveal his true self to the government officials – this effect helps us foresee that something dark and fearful is going to happen. The lighting creates the alley-way to be a segregated place from society – a separate world where nobody can hear or see the consequences of the fight scene. The darkness of the fight scene alongside the effective camera shots feed the audience anticipation, they are overcome with adrenaline because it is not clear what is going to happen as the darkness conceals most of the action. The final component of mise-en-scene is dialogue that narrates the scene and upholds the director’s intention – ideas are bulletproof and are used to reform society. As Creedy continues to shoot V, he remains firm and standing, he walks over as Creedy says “Die! Die! Why won’t you die?… Why won’t you die?” This is significant as Creedy not only asks why V isn’t dead, he also questions why despite all this oppression the idea of freedom and reformation won’t die either. As V stands tall, he represents his idea to revolutionize society – and relates it to McTeigue’s intention. V then replys with “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.” Ideas are bulletproof and therefore cannot be oppressed or killed, ideas remain strong in the obstacles of the government – as does V. Despite all efforts to condemn V, he continues to rebel against Norsefire and change London’s way of life. Through the use of dialogue, this idea becomes adamant to the audience as they are put in a position of empowerment – the audience feel as if they arte apart of V’s idea, they also have the power to change society and the world we live in. Despite the oppression and disagreement from others, the viewers are enticed to create their own ideas to improve our world and ensure we never become a society governed by a corrupt union such as Norsefire. McTeigue has used mise-en-scene in the fight scene effectively and combined with symbolism to convey his overall intention. Symbolism is conveyed throughout the fight scene by the predominant ‘V’ shape. The V is seen throughout the entire film and is enhanced in this scene through mise-en-scene and effective camera angles. The V symbol is used everywhere and reoccurs many times in the film which shows the audience the importance of this symbol. It is the symbol of the character V and his movement and rebellion against the governmen ways. As the film progresses, the V begins to appear more as the idea becomes a reality and the 5th of November draws closer. The society become more of a cohesive unit and and team together to rebel against the government as V intended. The symbol V is firstly shown in the fight scene as V lifts up knives in a ‘V’ orientation as they cross over one another, prior to him throwing it at Creedy’s men. This shows the symbol of rebellion has grown stronger as V murders government officials, its symbolic for the uprising and for the people rebelling against the controlling government and breaking free from the fear installed in them. When V holds up his knives in a ‘V’ shape, hes representing not only himself as an idea but the rest of London backing him and supporting him as they gain power and become a force. I believe this kind of support still occurs in our world today, with people willing to fight for their flag and fight for a cause and idea. The knives held up in a ‘V’ is specifically symbolic because the knives become a threat, the knives have the power to kill and manipulate – the ideology of the V and the revolution also have the power to kill and manipulate the government. Therefore this symbol is deliberately positioned by McTeigue to convey the power of ideas and how the audience is easily influenced by the ‘V’ seen constantly. The final ‘V’ we see in this scene is at the end of the fight, when all men have been killed and V now slumps against the wall after his victory. However, he is pierced with dozens of bullet wounds and as he leans against the wall – his blood smears to form a red ‘V’. This colour red shows the significance of extremes and yet also the colours of passion, violence, danger, anger and adventure – all similarly showed within the fight scene. This further shows that what V has fought for has been worth it because even as he is is about to die he has set others free. The ‘V’ symbol remains despite V being injured, he has passed on this symbol to society and it is not longer his idea but the citizens idea. V has done his job, he has sparked a desire for freedom and justice in each citizen’s heart and they will live on his legacy and his aim – to demolish parliament and re-build a fair and just society. Subsequently – McTeigue has used mise-en-scene and symbolism in conjunction to effectively convey this scene and allow the audience to feel emotive and independent. This idea has passed onto the audience – they are all part of this reformation as are the citizens in the film. The viewers are put into a position to make choices for themselves – to do the right thing despite oppression and fear; to escape and set themselves and others free from restraints that hold them down from being individuals of power.
Ideas are bulletproof – they cannot be destroyed, changed or manipulated by others. Ideas hold significant power in society by altering our perspectives and views on the world around us. Director James McTeigue has acknowledged the importance of ideas through putting his intentions into action. McTeigue has used a combination of cinematography techniques including; symbolism, montage and mise-en-scene to effectively convey the power of ideas. “How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those who are more responsible than others – and they will be held accountable – but again, truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.” ‘V for Vendetta’ is an influential film, and is successful in portraying a futuristic reality we could fall into if we don’t take into consideration – the power of ideas and unify as a society. In our world, we are subject to terrorism and Trump whom have already corrupted countries and a vast majority of the world. It is through the power of our ideas and acknowledging how they are bulletproof that we have the ability to change society and make it beneficial for ourselves and others. McTeigue has given the viewers an insight into the power of people and ideas – whilst both scenes; the domino and fight scene, enhance the entirety of the film.