Tuesday, July 29, 2008

V for Vendetta--the film

I haven't read the comic book or graphic novel that this movie, V for Vendetta, is based on, so I can't comment on the relationship between the two. However, what did surprise me is that the book version came out in the early 80s and is so topical today.

A totalitarian regime gained control in England when the general population's fear of terrorists allowed the government to take repressive measures in order to "protect the people" from terrorists. The immediate cause was a virus that killed almost 100,000 English before it was brought under control. Sounds frighteningly familiar today, doesn't it?

There is little opposition until V, a classic superhero who wears a Guy Fawkes mask, begins a reign of destruction and assassination.

The film echoes several historical events and at least one novel that also has been made into numerous films over the years.

The Phantom of the Opera: various films made of the novel all seem to agree that the Phantom wore a mask because his face was horribly burned in a fire. In some of the films, his actions were directed at gaining revenge for what happened to him. He lived underground in the sewers under Paris in an apartment that was richly furnished with furniture, paintings, wall hangings, and an organ. He has a very ambivalent relationship with a young woman he is coaching to become an opera singer--his burned face and the mask a hindrance to any sort of romantic relationship.

V for Vendetta: V wears a mask to cover his face that was burned in a fire while he was a captive in a medical institution that was conducting medical research on the prisoners that was reminiscent of research conducted in Germany under the Nazi regime. He also seems to live mostly underground somewhere, although he does have access to upper stories, in rooms filled with paintings, statues, suits of armor, and a jukebox. He also has a similar relationship with a young woman whom he tries to help overcome her fear.

V's mask, which is based on the English Guy Fawkes mask, also reminds me a bit of the Joker's mask from the Batman series. I wonder if there's a connection between the Joker's mask and Guy Fawkes mask.

Historical Event: on Nov. 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes and several others were captured while attempting to blow up the English Parliament. It is now a holiday and the British burn effigies wearing a mask resembling Guy Fawkes on Nov. 5 every year.

V for Vendetta: V wears a Guy Fawkes mask and makes references to the incident. He also has plans for the English Parliament on Nov. 5.

Historical Event: the Reichstag fire in Berlin. 27 February 1933.(The information and much of the text about the Reichstag Fire comes from the Wikipedia article of the same title) The Reichstag was the meeting place for the German Parliament. A fire broke out during the night of Feb. 27. On arrival of the police and fire fighters, one communist leader, Marinus van der Lubbe, was found in the building. The German Government, Adolf Hitler was the leader now, blamed the fire on the communists and passed a series of laws in order to "protect" the German Reich from the threat of communist terrorism. The laws eliminated the following civil liberties and rights of the German people:

"* Free expression of opinion
* Freedom of the press
* Right of assembly and association
* Right to privacy of postal and electronic communications
* Protection against unlawful searches and seizures
* Individual property rights
* States' right of self-government

A supplemental decree created the SA (Storm Troops) and SS (Special Security) Federal police agencies.

Who Did It? Historians do not agree on who is actually responsible for the Reichstag Fire: was it van der Lubbe acting alone --therefore the Communists -- or the Nazis themselves in order to create an incident. Writers such as Klaus P. Fischer feel that most likely the Nazis were involved.

But regardless of who actually planned and executed the fire, it is clear that the Nazis immediately took advantage of the situation in order to advance their cause at the expense of civil rights. The Decree enabled the Nazis to ruthlessly suppress opposition in the upcoming election."

This parallels events that take place in the film.

I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said something to the effect that those willing to give up their liberty for security deserve neither.


  1. According to this,


    Guy Fawkes was acting in protest to the lack of religious freedom in England at the time. A bit odd
    to combine religion and violence, but something we see today as well.

  2. Cheryl,

    Unfortunately, violence and religion have paired off all too frequently as we see from our history books--especially the three Western monotheistic religions.