Friday, March 31, 2006

V for Vendetta

Emma and Dave joined me to see V last friday. As much as I have anticipated the film's release, I wanted to wait until I'd finished my day job to see it so I could be relaxed and fully enjoy the experience - whatever it brought. I was dreading a total hatchet job of the story, so made sure I went in with an accepting state of mind, as I usually do with most films, with the aim of getting whatever I can out of it.

It was an incredible live action realisation of the story. I've loved it dearly since my youngest days. I originally read the story, by accident, when I was at the tender age of ten. It was some time after the story had been serialised in the comic Warrior. I was at a holiday camp with my friend's family and they - bizarrely - had a comic book shop there. So, of course, I spent all of my pocket money on as many comics as I could.

My parents would have totally spun out if they'd known what I was reading back then. Pornography was difficult to get hold of at the time, and I - thankfully - had already developed a keen interest in reading and stimulating my mind in other ways too. On reflection I think my mother might have preferred that I'd got hold of more pornography as a young kid.

Seeing the film will give you a substantial taste of the radical flavour of the comic book story, but nothing will replace the intensity of reading it for yourself. As well as being an engaging and incredibly moving story, it's also an incredible introduction to the philosophy of anarchism. I can trace it back as my first truly radical influence. I hadn't realised what a huge influence it had been on me - and other comics and stories like it, which I then developed a taste for - until I read it again when I was twenty. Since then I've re-read the story again every year, along with Moore's almost as amazing 'Watchmen' and Wilson's 'Prometheus Rising' (my 'desert island' book for those of you who don't already know).

The one scene that affected me very deeply when I first read it was the prison scene. It was a tough thing to deal with as a kid. I found the handful of hobbesian (nasty, brutish and short) sex scenes in the story tough to handle, partly because I was so young and naiive I had no idea it was actually depicting normal adult behaviour. They were nothing compared to the prison scene though.

I swear it opened something in me then that I couldn't find words for. It was a concept I could clearly experience, but couldn't express clearly. It also made me feel very lonely as I only had a couple of peers at the time who might have been able to understand its impact on me and want to discuss it. Adults at the time still seemed to me distant islands, and besides I already had the nagging doubt that they might stop me reading this stuff if they knew what it was about....

Anyway, year on year the power of the story and the prison scene in particular was increased many times as I invested more emotionally in the story and how much of it I could relate to. So, the depiction of that scene in the film was make or break for me. And what a catharsis it was for me. They got it just right.

I sat there with Emma on one side and Dave on the other bawling my eyes out. I don't think the film depiction of it will ever lose that profound tug on me. They were as much tears of happiness for the poetic justice of such a key moment depicted so sympathetically as they were tears from a very deep sadness inside me linked to it. I think I was gripping Emma's hand so tight she must have been in some discomfort.

Some of the modernised elements were nice touches too, such as the inclusion of words like 'rendition' and 'collateral' in Valerie's story - new words entering the lexicon and heralding the beginnings of true Orwellian Newspeak.

While the film missed out on some of V's anarchist monologues, it conveyed many of the most important elements. And the fact is, as the film highlights, many words have become cheapened or changed and members of the audience may have been turned off by a V monologue explaining his actions and passions. We've come to the point of the society of spectacle, where it has become the only true means of communication through a thoroughly plebiscised mass media.

V introduces the idea that the people are more important than the government, that the correct (or rather, a more correct) application of power is from the ground up and not the top down. It raises the specter of deliberate government deceit, the government that pursues its own health and power through attacking its own citizens directly, staging false flag "terrorist" operations. This is still an alien idea to many; hopefully the film has given it wider currency. False flag operations are all too real - and commonplace since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Perhaps most importantly, it shows that an individual with courage and intelligence can change the world. It shows that both 'the people' and the individual matter - and that there is an ineluctable relationship between the one and the other in terms of commonality and individuation (some aspects of which are explored in the piece Phoenix and myself wrote together on self-expression).

I loved the film so much I had to go see it again on Sunday with Carrie. The prison scene got me again. Carrie really enjoyed it too, which I was pleased about as she also really liked Munich (another film I need to watch again - especially for the upsetting and gut-renching scene where the lead Mossad agent is having sex with his wife and having flashbacks to all the violence. Anyone who has had any serious experiences of violence in their life will totally relate to that scene).


Carrie took me to a Salsa session that night at the Union. I was fascinated by watching how everyone moves, I was struck again by the realisation that I often see women who I wouldn't generally look twice at, but if they can move well on the dance floor I suddenly find myself attracted to them. Must be an atavistic response to gyrating hips......

It was also interesting observing some of the people prospecting for dancing partners. Many people were there just to watch (as we were). Watching one bloke pick up a woman from the side of the dance floor and get her dancing totally fuzzed my attraction radar. Because they were already in rapport, and lots of touching was necessitated by the dancing style I really couldn't tell if they were attracted to eachother. Carrie couldn't either, which was helpful to know, as women are generally regarded as having much more finely tuned senses with regard to body language (in large part, I suspect to differences in socialisation as identified by feminist Carol Gilligan). It would be an interesting area of research (how far this extra sensitivity is socialised and how much is genetic), but I just don't have the time. I'm too busy working on my own acuity is this typically underdeveloped skill for men.

It looks like fun so I'll probably try it. As usual I'm trying to work out how it would be advantageous to other areas of my life. Will it help to improve my martial arts? My dancing? Carrie reminded me that I need to have a good time and stop thinking so much about specific life goals and skill development. She has a point. Both her and Emma frequently remind me of this in their own ways which is one of the reasons I really appreciate them being around.

Still - I can't help making the calculation. After all, practicing some Alexander technique posturing has definitely helped my dancing - keeping my back straight and leaning back excessively from my hips when dancing has enabled me to pull off some crazier jumps and spins. It's definitely going to help with my kicks too once I've loosened my hamstrings up again.

Anyway, thanks for reading - more anon.


ThePete said...

Wow--we have such common tastes in movies and TV generally, I'm shocked you got so much out of both V and Munich--I'm glad you were able to, of course, but I found both to be very dissatisfying. V, in my opinion, missed the ultimate point of the comic which was that humanity will always have corruption--at the end when Finch is leaving London, he bumps into that corrupt woman who tells him that together they can control these losers around the fire--that was Moore telling us that organized government is a losing battle. All I got from the film was that the people were taking back their country but where it goes after that, we don't know. There was no other warning for us and I thought that was the point of the comic.

Munich I thought was very bad, very boring and used loads of cinematic shortcuts to avoid being an interesting film. The scene you mentioned about the having an orgasm while flashingback doesn't make any sense to me since the character wasn't there to see the violence first hand. And if he was so screwed in the head that he imagined it all, I didn't understand why that was. I also had an issue with the murder of the hitwoman. But I could go on and on about this :) If you want to read my full review of Munich here:

Anyway, I hope you write more, man! I want to read your thoughts on things going on in the world! I miss our days on GNN...

Katabasis said...

You know me Pete - I'm like a perpetual motion machine, always working to get more out of something. :) I agree that V missed out a lot from the comic, but then the film only had two hours to tell an often subtle and multi-threaded story in an accessible format. Given that I was very pleased with it.

As to the scene in question on Munich. Well, it was an experience that I very much identified with. Just don't tell me I'm screwed in the head because of it. :)

I've started writing articles again for GNN btw....

ThePete said...

You? Screwed in the head?

I wouldn't say that!


Let's just say that I didn't get that Eric Banna's character was screwed in the head in the least.

Hey, if you ever want to write for my site, you're more than welcome to. I'm actually contemplating a name change to suggest a more communal blog. I'm having trouble avoiding that "burned out feeling" so I'm hoping I can inspire more friends to post. :)

Either way, I'm glad you're writing no matter where it is.

Oh and how 'bout that Battlestar Galactica finale? Betcha didn't see THAT coming, did ya?

I sure as hell didn't!

ThePete said...

Hey man, I can't find your stuff on GNN--can you post a link? Or perhaps cross-post your other stuff here? Sorry, I have never liked the "new" GNN.