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V For Vendetta Ending Analysis Essay

Study Guide: V For Vendetta

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Content and Sources for this Study Guide:

The complete film script of V for Vendetta is available from the Internet Movie Script Database:  http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/V-for-Vendetta.html

V for Vendetta is a ten-issue comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated mostly by David Lloyd, set in a dystopian future United Kingdom imagined from the 1980s to about the 1990s. A mysterious masked revolutionary who calls himself "V" works to destroy the totalitarian government, profoundly affecting the people he encounters. Warner Bros. released a film adaptation of V for Vendetta in 2006.

The series depicts a near-future UK after a nuclear war, which has left much of the world destroyed, though most of the damage to the country is indirect, via floods and crop failures. In this future, a fascist party called Norsefire has exterminated its opponents in concentration camps and now rules the country as a police state. V, an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent, and intentionally theatrical campaign to murder his former captors, bring down the government, and convince the people to rule themselves.


Publication history

The first episodes of V for Vendetta originally appeared in black-and-white between 1982 and 1985, in Warrior, a British anthology comic published by Quality Comics. The strip became one of the most popular in that title; during the 26 issues of Warrior several covers featured V for Vendetta

When the publishers cancelled Warrior in 1985 (with two completed issues unpublished due to the cancellation), several companies attempted to convince Moore and Lloyd to let them publish and complete the story. In 1988 DC Comics published a ten-issue series that reprinted the Warrior stories in color, then continued the series to completion. The first new material appeared in issue #7, which included the unpublished episodes that would have appeared in Warrior #27 and #28. Tony Weare drew one chapter ("Vincent") and contributed additional art to two others ("Valerie" and "The Vacation"); Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds worked as colourists on the entire series.

The series, including Moore's "Behind the Painted Smile" essay and two "interludes" outside the central continuity, then appeared in collected form as a trade paperback, published in the US by DC's Vertigo imprint (ISBN 0-930289-52-8) and in the UK by Titan Books (ISBN 1-85286-291-2).

David Lloyd's paintings for V for Vendetta in Warrior originally appeared in black-and-white. The DC Comics version published the artwork "colourised" in pastels. Lloyd has stated that he had always intended the artwork to appear in colour, and that the initial publication in black and white occurred for financial reasons because colour would have cost too much (although Warrior publisher Dez Skinn expressed surprise at this information, as he had commissioned the strip in black and white and never intended Warrior to feature any interior colour, irrespective of expense).

In writing V for Vendetta, Moore drew upon an idea for a strip titled The Doll, which he had submitted in 1975 at the age of 22 to DC Thomson. In "Behind the Painted Smile",[1] Moore revealed that the idea was rejected as DC Thomson balked at the idea of a "transsexual terrorist". Years later, Warrior editor Dez Skinn allegedly invited Moore to create a dark mystery strip with artist David Lloyd.[2] He actually asked David Lloyd to recreate something similar to their popular Marvel UK Night-Raven strip, a story with an
enigmatic masked vigilante set in the United States in the 1930s. Lloyd asked for writer Alan Moore to join him, and the setting developed through their discussions, moving from the 1930s United States to a near- future Britain. As the setting progressed, so did the character's development; once conceived as a "realistic" gangster-age version of Night-Raven, he became, first, a policeman rebelling against the totalitarian state he served, then a heroic anarchist.

Moore and Lloyd conceived the series as a dark adventure-strip influenced by British comic characters of the 1960s, as well as by Night Raven,[3] a Marvel UK strip which Lloyd had previously worked on with writer Steve Parkhouse. Editor Dez Skinn came up with the name "Vendetta" over lunch with his work colleague Graham Marsh — but quickly rejected it as sounding too Italian. Then V for Vendetta emerged, putting the emphasis on "V" rather than "Vendetta". David Lloyd developed the idea of dressing V as Guy Fawkes after previous designs followed the conventional superhero look.

During the preparation of the story Moore made a list of what he wanted to bring into the plot, which he reproduced in "Behind the Painted Smile": "Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, Catman and The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World by the same author. Vincent Price's Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Night Raven. Batman. Fahrenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction. Max Ernst's painting "Europe After the Rain". Thomas Pynchon. The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The
Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin..."[1]

The political climate of Britain in the early 1980s also influenced the work,[4] with Moore positing that Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government would "obviously lose the 1983 elections", and that an incoming Michael Foot-led Labour government, committed to complete nuclear disarmament, would allow the United Kingdom to escape relatively unscathed after a limited nuclear war. However, Moore felt that fascists would quickly subvert a post-holocaust Britain.[1] Moore's scenario remains untested. Addressing
historical developments when DC reissued the work, he noted: "Naïveté can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge Britain towards fascism... The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1983 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras."[5]



On November 5, 1997 in London a mysterious cloaked figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, and calling himself "V", rescues a young woman, Evey Hammond, from a gang of secret police officers (known as Fingermen) who intend to rape and kill her. After dispatching most of the Fingermen, V heads to a rooftop with Evey and detonates a bomb at Parliament. V takes Evey to his secret underground lair, which he calls "The Shadow Gallery". Evey tells V her life story, describing the nuclear war of the late 1980s that, while it did not directly involve the UK, triggered a global social-economic catastrophe, indirectly resulting in economic collapse and borderline starvation. This eventually led to the fascist coup d'état in Great Britain, under the promise of restoring order. In order to smooth over their transition to power, the fascists scapegoated various "undesirable" groups - homosexuals, foreign immigrants, and left-wing liberals - ultimately killing millions of them in concentration camps. Evey's own father was rounded up as a political prisoner because he had once belonged to a left-wing student group, and she never saw him again.

The task of investigating V's bombing falls to Eric Finch, the head of The Nose — the regular police force — and an experienced investigator who serves the government out of dedication to his job rather than from political conviction. Through him, readers meet other figures in the Party, including the Leader, Adam Susan, a recluse who is obsessed with the government's computer system, Fate; Dominic Stone, Finch's partner; Derek Almond, head of The Finger – the secret police force; Conrad Heyer, head of The Eye – the visual surveillance branch; Brian Etheridge, head of The Ear – the audio surveillance branch; and Roger Dascombe, in charge of The Mouth – the branch in charge of broadcasting propaganda.

After destroying the Houses of Parliament, V confronts three other Party figures to accuse them of, and execute them for, past atrocities: Lewis Prothero, the propaganda broadcaster who serves as the Voice of Fate; Bishop Anthony Lilliman, a paedophile priest who represents the Party in the clergy; and Delia Surridge, an apolitical doctor who once had a relationship with Finch. V drives Prothero insane after incinerating his prized doll collection before his eyes; he kills Lilliman by forcing him to consume a cyanide- laced communion wafer; and Dr. Surridge dies from a lethal injection (however, because Surridge had expressed remorse for her previous actions, she experiences a painless death). By the time V kills Surridge, Finch has discovered that all of V's victims worked at a concentration camp near the village of Larkhill, and alerts Derek Almond to V's plans. Almond surprises V attempting to escape from Surridge's home.Unfortunately for Almond, he had forgotten to reload his gun after having cleaned it earlier that same night, and V kills him.

Finch begins to read a diary kept by Dr. Surridge discovered at her home. It reveals all of the victims' previous histories with V during his time as an inmate at the Larkhill camp. V was an involuntary victim of a medical experiment run by Dr. Surridge in which he was given hormonal injections with a drug called Batch 5. Eventually V, known to the camp's staff as the "Man from Room Five", began tending a garden with camp commander Prothero's approval, using related chemicals to later break out of the camp while attacking camp guards with homemade mustard gas and napalm. V, the only prisoner to have survived the death camp, chose to eliminate its surviving officers to prevent the government from discovering his true identity. Finch notes that while V made sure Surridge's diary was easy to find, he had also ripped out pages that may have contained information about his identity.

Four months later, V breaks into Jordan Tower, the home of the Mouth, to broadcast a speech that calls on the people to take charge of their own lives. He escapes by forcing Roger Dascombe into one of his Fawkes costumes; the police then gun Dascombe down. Finch, in going over the crime scene, is introduced to Peter Creedy, a petty criminal replacing Almond as head of the Finger. Creedy blithlely dismisses V, whom Finch has come to respect, and makes a crude remark about Dr. Surridge, provoking Finch to strike him.
Following the incident, the Leader sends Finch on a forced vacation.

Evey has developed a strong attachment to V, but has begun to challenge his methods. After a confrontation in the Shadow Gallery, she finds herself abandoned on a street, unable to find V. She is taken in by Gordon, a petty criminal with whom she becomes romantically involved, and they cross paths unknowingly with Derek Almond's widow, Rose; after the deaths of her husband and Dascombe (with whom she had been forced into a relationship for financial reasons), Rose is forced to work as a burlesque dancer, and consequently grows to hate the Party. Creedy begins organizing a private militia, hoping to use V's destabilization of the Party to mount a coup against the Leader.

When the Scottish gangster, Alistair Harper, murders Gordon, Evey attempts to kill him, but is abducted and accused of attempting to murder Creedy as he was meeting with Harper. In her cell, between multiple bouts of interrogation and torture, Evey finds a letter from an inmate named Valerie, an actress who was imprisoned for being a lesbian. Evey's interrogator finally gives her a choice of collaboration or death; inspired by Valerie's courage and quiet defiance, she refuses to give in, and is told that she is free. Evey learns that her imprisonment was a hoax constructed by V designed to put her through an ordeal similar to the one that shaped him. He reveals that Valerie was another Larkhill prisoner, who died in the cell next to his; the letter that Evey read is the same one that Valerie had passed on to V. Evey's anger finally gives way to acceptance of her identity.

The following November, exactly one year after the Parliament bombing, V destroys the Post Office Tower and Jordan Tower, killing Etheridge and effectively shutting down the Eye, the Ear and the Mouth. The subsequent lack of government surveillance causes a wave of violence and hedonism that is violently suppressed by Creedy and Harper's street gangs. Meanwhile, V notes to Evey that he has not yet achieved the land of Do-as-You-Please, a functional anarchistic society, and considers the current situation an interim period of mere chaos in the Land of Take-What-You-Want. Dominic realizes that V has had access to the Fate computer since the very beginning, explaining his foresight; this news accelerates Susan's descent into insanity.

Finch travels to the abandoned site of Larkhill, where he takes LSD. His hallucinations show him his past life, where he was the lover of a black woman who was sent to the concentration camps for her race. His hallucinations also have him act as a prisoner of Larkhill who is soon freed, like V, giving him an intuitive understanding of him. Returning to London he deduces that V's lair is inside the abandoned Victoria Station. V confronts Finch as the latter enters the station, and lets Finch shoot him. The mortally wounded V returns to the Shadow Gallery and dies in Evey's arms. Evey considers unmasking V, but decides not to; instead, she assumes his identity, donning one of his spare costumes.

Meanwhile, Creedy pressures the Leader to appear in public, in an attempt to usurp control of the government. As the Leader's car drives past during a parade, Rose Almond assassinates him. Creedy tries to take his place, but Harper, bribed by Conrad Heyer's wife Helen, kills him. V sends a surveillance tape to Heyer of Helen and Harper having sex. He responds by beating Harper to death with a wrench, but not before Harper wounds him with a razor. His wife finds him but refuses to get medical help, leaving him to bleed to death while placing a closed-circuit camcorder in front of Heyer; allowing him to witness his own exsanguinations on a nearby television. This leaves the key Party officials all dead; only Finch survives, who soon leaves after he comes to terms with his own dissatisfaction with the Party.

Evey appears to a crowd as V, announcing the destruction of Downing Street the following day and telling the crowd they must "...choose what comes next. Lives of your own, or a return to chains", whereupon a general insurrection begins. Dominic, struck on the head by a stone, loses consciousness as he runs for safety, seeing Evey disguised as V before he passes out. Evey destroys 10 Downing Street[7] by giving V a Viking funeral with an explosive-laden Underground train containing his body, sent to detonate beneath the desired location. Dominic awakens in the Shadow Gallery, as Evey dressed in her mentor's Guy Fawkes costume, introduces herself as V, apparently to train Dominic as her successor. As night falls, Finch observes the chaos raging in the city and encounters Helen Heyer, who has taken the company of local homeless people for survival after her car was turned over and her supplies stolen. When they recognize each other, Helen embraces Finch, saying they could raise a small army and restore order. Finch silently pushes Helen away and she angrily responds with a torrent of homophobic slurs. He leaves her and the tramps to climb down an embankment onto an abandoned motorway and sees a sign reading "Hatfield and
The North". The final panel shows Finch walking down the deserted motorway, all the streetlamps dark.

Major Characters and Cast

V is a masked anarchist who seeks to systematically kill the leaders of Norsefire, a fascist dictatorship ruling a dystopian United Kingdom. He is well-versed in the arts of explosives, subterfuge, and computer hacking, and has a vast literary, cultural and philosophical intellect. V is the only survivor of an experiment in which four dozen prisoners were given injections of a compound called Batch 5. The compound caused vast cellular anomalies that eventually killed all of the subjects except V, who developed advanced strength, reflexes, endurance and pain tolerance. Throughout the novel, V almost always wears his trademark Guy Fawkes mask, a shoulder-length wig of straight dark-brown hair and an outfit consisting of black gloves, tunic, trousers and boots. When not wearing the mask, his face is not shown. When outside the Shadow Gallery, he completes this ensemble with a circa-17th century conical hat and floor-length cloak. His weapons of choice include daggers, explosives and tear gas. 

The book suggests that V took his name from the Roman numeral "V", the number of the room he was held in during the experiment.

At the end of the book, V lets Chief Inspector Eric Finch shoot him, and dies in Evey's arms. Evey then assumes V's identity and gives the original V a Viking funeral by placing him inside a bomb-laden train whose eventual destination is Downing Street.

Hugo Weaving as V:
Originally James Purefoy was cast as V, but left six weeks into filming due to difficulties wearing the mask for the entire film.[3] He was replaced by Hugo Weaving, who had previously worked with Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers on The Matrix Trilogy as Agent Smith. Only a few, dialogue-free scenes featuring Purefoy appear in the completed film. Weaving had in fact been the Wachowskis' first choice for the role, but initially turned it down to appear in the Australian film Eucalyptus; the cancellation of that project and the departure of Purefoy one month into V for Vendetta's production allowed Weaving to accept the role.

Evey Hammond
Evey Hammond was a young woman whom V saves from the Fingermen. She comes under V's wing, learns of his past and of his current battle against the government, and eventually becomes his successor.

Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond:
Director James McTeigue first met Portman on the set of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, where he worked with her as assistant director. In preparing for the role, Portman worked with dialectologist Barbara Berkery in order to perform with an English accent. She also studied films such as The Weather Underground and read the autobiography of Menachem Begin.[4] Portman received top billing for the film. Portman's role in the film has parallels to her role as Mathilda Lando in the film Léon.[5] According to Portman: "the relationship between V and Evey has a complication [like] the relationship in
that film." Portman also had her head shaved on screen during a scene where her character is tortured.[6]

Adam Susan
Adam Susan, also known as The Leader, is the leader of the Norsefire Party and its functions, although his power is largely ceremonial. Susan is in love with the Fate (a computer system) and prefers its companionship to that of his fellow human beings. Susan also expresses a solipsist belief that he and God (referring to the Fate computer) are the only truly "real" beings in existence. He is an adherent of fascism and racist notions of "purity", and genuinely believes that civil liberties are dangerous and unnecessary. He appears to truly care for his people, however, and it is implied that his embrace of fascism was a response to his own loneliness. Before the War, he was a Chief Constable. In the end of the novel, he is assassinated by Rose Almond, the widow of one of his former lieutenants.

John Hurt as High Chancellor Adam Sutler:
A former Conservative MP and Under-Secretary for Defence, Chancellor Sutler was the founder of Norsefire and is the de facto dictator of Britain. Hurt played a contrary role in another dystopian film: Winston Smith, a victim of the state in the film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four.[8][9]

Eric Finch
Eric Finch is the Chief of New Scotland Yard and Minister of Investigations, which has become The Nose. Finch is a pragmatist who sides with the government because he would rather serve in a world of order than one of chaos. He is nevertheless honorable and decent, and trusted by the Leader because he is reliable and without ambition. He eventually achieves his own anagnorisis and self-knowledge, expressing sorrow over his complicity with Norsefire's atrocities. He is at one to as Edward Finch (an error on the part
of Helen Heyer).

Stephen Rea as Eric Finch:
Finch is the lead inspector in the V investigation, who, during his investigation, uncovers an unspeakable government crime. Rea is no stranger to politics and terrorism, as he was once married to Dolours Price, a former member of the Provisional IRA, imprisoned for bombing the Old Bailey. When asked whether the politics attracted him to the film, Rea replied "Well, I don't think it would be very interesting if it was just comic-book stuff. The politics of it are what gives it its dimension and momentum, and of course I was interested in the politics. Why wouldn't I be?"[7]

Peter Creedy:
A coarse, petty man who replaces Derek Almond as Security Minister of the Finger after the latter's death. He aims to replace the weakening Susan as Leader, but as part of Mrs. Heyer's plot, Alistair Harper's thugs kill him (Creedy had hired the thugs to bolster the weakening Finger, but Helen Heyer offered them more).

Tim Pigott-Smith as Peter Creedy:
Creedy is both Norsefire's party leader and the head of Britain's Secret Police, the Finger, and also the main antagonist of the film. While Sutler is the Chancellor, the source of the government's power over the people lies with Creedy. He is also revealed to be the mastermind of the bio-attack that gave Norsefire the chance to take over Britain. He comes under fire when the Chancellor threatens him after he fails to stop V. In the film's climax, Creedy kills Sutler before meeting his own end when V strangles him.[4]

Dominic Stone:
Inspector Finch's assistant. Dominic is the one who figures out the connection between V and the former Larkhill camp staff and V's hacking into the Fate computer system. At the end, Evey rescues Dominic from a mob.

Rupert Graves as Detective Sergeant Dominic Stone:
Dominic is Inspector Finch's lieutenant in the V investigation.

Lewis Prothero:
The former Commander of Larkhill, the concentration camp that V once held. He later becomes The Voice of Fate, the government radio broadcaster who daily transmits "information" to the public. V stops a train carrying Prothero and kidnaps him. He is driven insane by a combination of an overdose of Batch 5 drugs and the shock of seeing his prized doll collection burned in a mock recreation of Camp Larkhill in V's headquarters. He remains incapacitated for the rest of the story.

Roger Allam as Lewis Prothero:
Lewis Prothero, "The Voice of London", is a mouthpiece for the Norsefire government. He was the former Commander of the Larkhill facility. He presented a show on the BTN (in Steve Moore's novelization of the film, he is also an egomaniac and apparently addicted to illegally-obtained prescription drugs). V kills him with a drug overdose. Some critics and commentators have viewed him as a parody of American right-wing pundits such as Bill O'Reilly, Morton Downey, Jr. and Rush Limbaugh.[9][12]

Bishop Anthony Lilliman:
The voice of the Party in the Church. Lilliman is a corrupt priest who molests the young girls in his various parishes. Like Prothero, he worked at Larkhill before being given a higher employment by the state. Lilliman was a priest who was hired to give spiritual support to the prisoners being given Batch 5 drugs. He is killed after he almost rapes Evey Hammond (who is dressed up as a young girl), when V forces him to take communion with a cyanide-laced wafer.

John Standing as Bishop Anthony James Lilliman:
Lilliman is a corrupt bishop at Westminster Abbey, installed into this position by Sutler. Lilliman was a Reverend at the Larkhill centre. A pedophile, he uses his position to rape young girls, crimes covered up by Norsefire. He was warned by Evey Hammond when she was undercover as a prostitute, then disposed of by V in the same manner as Prothero. In regards to his role, Standing remarked "I thoroughly enjoyed playing Lilliman... because he's slightly comic and utterly atrocious. Lovely to do."[4]

Valerie Page:
A critically acclaimed actress who was imprisoned at Larkhill when the government found out she was a lesbian. Her tragic fate at the hands of the regime inspired V to fight against Norsefire.

Natasha Wightman as Valerie Page:
Valerie, a lesbian, is one of the "social undesirables" imprisoned by the Norsefire government. Valerie was played by Imogen Poots in flashbacks to her childhood. Her symbolic role as a victim of the state was received positively by many LGBT critics. Film critic Michael Jensen praised Valerie's scenes "not just because it is beautifully acted and well-written, but because it is so utterly unexpected [in a Hollywood film]."[11]

Delia Surridge:
Larkhill camp doctor whom V kills by lethal injection of an unspecified drug. Surridge (the only one of V's former tormentors who feels remorse for her actions) apologizes to him in her final moments of life. Finch also mentions that he has feelings for her, and he feels maddened at her death and determined to end V's life.

Sinéad Cusack as Dr. Delia Surridge:
the former head physician at the Larkhill detention centre under her real name, Diana Stanton, she changed her name and became a coroner in London. V states that the torture and death at Larkhill was only possible because of her research. Surridge had initially worked at Larkhill for idealistic reasons, and, unlike V's other victims, feels remorse for the crimes she committed there. V kills her by giving her a painless lethal injection in her sleep.

A petty criminal specializing in bootlegging. He harbours and later sleeps with Evey Hammond. He is murdered by Alistair Harper, a ruthless gangster who is trying to expand Scotland's organized crime syndicate into London. He has no given family name in the graphic novel.

*Stephen Fry as Gordon Deitrich (new character):
Talk show host Gordon Deitrich is a closeted homosexual who, due to the restrictions of the regime, has "lost his appetite" over the years. When asked in an interview what he liked about the role, Fry replied "Being beaten up! I hadn't been beaten up in a movie before and I was very excited by the idea of being clubbed to death."[10]


Other Characters in the Graphic Novel

Derek Almond: A high-ranking official of the Norsefire government. He ran the government's secret police force, known as The Finger. Almond was warned by Finch that Surridge would be the last of V's targets and had run to her house to prevent him but then was killed by V. Almond is replaced by Peter Creedy. While Almond does not figure heavily in the story, his death sets in motion one of the novel's major story arcs; that of his widow, Rose, who is left penniless and traumatized by the loss of her husband, who was cold and abusive toward her but whom she nevertheless loved. In her grief and desperation, she blames her plight on Norsefire's leader, Adam Susan, and assassinates him at the novel's climax.

Rosemary Almond: The abused wife of Derek Almond. When her husband is murdered, Rose becomes depressed and must turn to Roger Dascombe (whom she strongly dislikes) for company and support. She is forced to become a showgirl as a means of supporting herself after Dascombe's death at the hands of V. After V shuts down the surveillance systems, she uses the opportunity to buy a gun and assassinate Adam Susan.

Helen Heyer: The ruthless, scheming wife of Conrad Heyer. She uses sex and her superior intellect to keep her husband (for whom she feels nothing but contempt) in line, and to further her own goal of ultimately controlling the country after he becomes Leader. At the same time, she sleeps with Harper and turns him against Creedy. Ultimately, her master plan collapses and she is last seen offering her body in exchange for protection and food to a semi-drunken gang after being rejected by Finch (who she hoped would join her in taking over what was left of the Party after her husband, Peter Creedy and Alistair Harper are all killed) and after anarchy has spilled into London.

Conrad Heyer: In charge of "The Eye" — the agency that controls the country's CCTV system. His wife Helen dominates him, and she intends for him to become leader, leaving her as the power behind the throne. In the end, V sends Conrad a videotape of Helen being unfaithful and he snaps, killing her lover Alistair Harper but sustaining a fatal wound from Harper's straight-edge razor in the process. When Helen learns what he has done, she is enraged at the destruction of her plans and leaves him to bleed to death, setting up a video camera connected to their TV so that he can watch himself die.

Roger Dascombe: The technical supervisor for the Party's media division and the Propaganda Minister of The Mouth. In the first scene with him, he is presented as being openly effeminate. After Derek Almond's death, Dascombe sets his sights on his widow, Rosemary, who eventually turns to him for support. During V's attack on Jordan Tower, he is set up as a dummy V and killed by the police while the real V makes his escape.

Yesterday Therese and I dished about the totalitarian-themed film V for Vendetta (just a short scroll down). Our talk yesterday examined the role of the two protagonists Evey and V. Today we move our analysis to the way the filmmakers handled the controversial theme, which is that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

Kath: This movie was pretty unapologetic on the political front, no?

Therese: Yes–the total control; it was frightening because it’s also plausible. I also thought the parallels to 9-11 were eerie. Their “chosen date” was November 5th, their goal to destroy a government building to make a statement: Blowing up a building can change the world. It stunned me to realize this plot was conceived before 9-11.

Everything about this movie was big, impossible to miss. The violence was stylized, the themes and messages broadcast (sometimes literally) for the viewer to digest. It’s an interesting technique, and it is one that feels derived from politics: Make sure that everyone GETS the intended message. (A side note: I happened to watch this movie the night Saddam Hussein was executed; how odd is that?) I think its a gamble a writer makes when their reader or viewer can be put off by such heavy-handedness with references to things that strike such a raw chord with people, but its clear your statement is heard in the end.

What do you think about this gamble? Where should the writer draw the line?

Kath: Ugh, the night Saddam was executed? That is creepy.

I think the risk to lean on the political implications paid off, at least it did for me. There was just enough plausibility in each scenario to make you think “this really could happen” like the biological virus gone amok and the government using it to justify repression even though they were the ones who created it. So I understood and empathized with V’s motivation to blow up Parliament. What limit does it take, the movie asks, before one gets outraged enough to do violence? What happens when children heed the call for “freedom”? What is freedom anyway–can anyone be free if the cost is so much bloodshed?

For me also what rang true was the passive populace sated by t.v. and consumerism. I think the filmmakers handled that aspect brilliantly, as they did with the blowhard agitprop t.v. commentator who was revealed to be a hypocrite of the greatest magnitude. I did love that last frame, where everyone had their V masks on….we’re all terrorists. That was very cool. What did you think about the ending?

Therese: The touch with the masks was brilliant, really–the idea that none who wear them are individuals, that they’re the keepers of the idea and the passion for freedom. Interesting, too, that the investigator seemed sold on V’s vendetta in the end, allowing the train its final run as he and Evey stood watching.

I also enjoyed seeing Evey’s character arc go full circle – she moves from a fearless girl who hides under the bed to a leader who stands firm on her decisions and who is persuasive enough to convince others that she is in the right. What did you think about Vs method of creating a fearlessness in Evey? Torture or therapy?

Kath: This is the part of the movie I had the most trouble with. I felt cheated when I learned it was V who had imprisoned Evey and tortured her instead of the repressive regime. I’m okay with blurring lines between heroism and villainy, but that twist undercut much of my sympathy for V. I understand why they (or Alan Moore) did it, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. If Evey had survived torture at the hands of the regime instead of V, it would have still served the same storytelling purpose, imo. You?

Therese: I honestly predicted that it was V’s lair before the revelation (the gloves gave it away for me). Again, I think it goes back to V being parental and trying to actively mold Evey in his image. He had suffered before his transformation and so she had to as well. Interesting when they juxtaposed each of their defining moments on the screen – him in the fire and her in the rain. I’m still trying to work out the symbolism there. Maybe the idea was that his transformation was born from hate and hers from (supposed) love? I dunno.

I don’t think I ever liked or disliked V throughout the film. It seemed to me more something to just take in and think about. Did you even see a character arc for V? I don’t think I did, which is curious! Maybe again it’s because he’s not a character as much as an idea that remains steady throughout the film. Thoughts?

Kath: Gosh, I didn’t think of V that way, but that’s a pretty insightful analysis. I thought his arc was that Evey touched him emotionally–he seemed to feel bad that he tortured her–but in the end his devotion to humanity overcame his attachment to her. Thus he resisted being unmasked. At least that’s how I interpreted it. But it was a pretty weak arc at best.

Therese: Let’s talk about Valerie! I told my hubby toward the end of the film, “I think V is Valerie.” He puckered his face in that way that means, “Are you on drugs?”, and even though by the end of the movie I had disregarded my theory, there is perhaps the smallest possibility. They never showed her death, and it was interesting that she essentially left a letter for Evey that helped pull her through those blackest moments. In their unforgiving world, Valerie was condemned for being a homosexual. She wrote: “…but for three years I had roses and apologized to no one. Every inch of me shall perish but one. An inch. But worth having. Never let them take it from us.” and “Even though I don’t know you, I love you with all my heart.” Interesting, no?

Kath: Ok, THAT never occurred to me! I kept thinking she was going to pull a key or something that Valerie had hidden in the toilet. But I’m intrigued by the idea. Having V be a female would have made those ass-kicking moves that much more awesome. I also loved this story-within-a-story about Valerie. I think it’s a strong technique that can inject other dimensions of emotion that would be hard to fit in otherwise.

My final thought on the film is it shows that risky storytelling can pay off, but it takes a light touch. V and Evey’s end were certainly appropriate–he dies for freedom, she lives to continue the fight. I think if they’d let V live it would have lessened the impact of the ending. It showed how far he would go to obtain his goal. In the end, the stylish visuals and intriguing plotline saved the story from absurdity, at least for me. You?

Therese: I wondered over V’s end, because his actions seemed suicidal to me. He could’ve pulled out his knives and knocked out half the force before being shot; he may have lived. But as he left Evey before going to his death he essentially said goodbye to her; he knew what the end result would be. If he hadn’t died then, I wonder if he would’ve rode the “train to freedom” in the end anyway? I think he was ready for it to be over.

Anywhoo, I’m ultimately glad that I took the time to see V for Vendetta. It was as edgy, bizarre and unboxed as it looked in the trailer I saw eon’s ago, and it kept my mind clicking at extra speed while I was on the ride. How ’bout you? Glad you saw it?

Kath: I was. The filmmakers took the box and blew it up (pun intended). It gave me a lot to think about as far as storytelling goes. I look forward to the next offering from the Wachowski brothers. It’s sure to be surreal and thought-provoking.

About Kathleen Bolton

Kathleen Bolton is co-founder of Writer Unboxed. She writes under a variety of pseudonyms, including Ani Bolton.She has written two novels as Cassidy Calloway: Confessions of a First Daughter, and Secrets of a First Daughter--both books in a YA series about the misadventures of the U.S. President's teen-aged daughter, published by HarperCollins, and Tamara Blake, for the novel Slumber.

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