Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Light in the Darkness Part 2: V For Vendetta (2006)

     “Remember, remember, the fifth of November…”

     And so begins “V for Vendetta”, this week’s film in our five-part series “Light in the Darkness”. I remember seeing this for the first time last year with some other guys on my residence hall, and it really made me stop and realize… I am squeamish. I never thought of myself as squeamish before, but some parts of this movie surprised me with how bloody and violent they were. Sure, it’s not the most violent movie out there, but for someone like me who’s become so used to action movies like “The Dark Knight” and “Saving Private Ryan”, movies that show violence without blood or show bloody violence for history’s sake, respectively, this was actually pretty intense for me. However, today I’m going to look past the blood and share with you how this film affected me in terms of my faith, because if you look close enough, it’s really apparent. So here we go.

     “V for Vendetta” takes place in 2020, where the United States government has been overthrown and the United Kingdom is now controlled by a fascist government (which to me feels a lot like George Orwell’s “1984”). Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) works for the government-controlled British Television Network (BTN for short) and is almost attacked by the secret police when a man in a mask comes and rescues her. The man is simply known as V (Hugo Weaving), a vigilante figure who wears a Guy Fawkes-style mask to cover up his disfigured face from a fire years before. He takes Evey with him as he blows up Old Bailey (it’s a building in England apparently… I’ve never been…). The next day, the government tries to cover it up as its own doing, but V infiltrates BTN and goes on national television, telling viewers across the nation to stand up against the government and join him one year from that day, the fifth of November, to destroy Parliament.

     Of course, V gets attacked by officials, but he is able to fight them off, and he takes Evey with him. He tells her that for her own safety, she must stay with him until the fifth of November while he begins killing government officials. Evey flees, but long story short, is caught by officials. She is arrested, head shaven (for some reason… I don’t really remember), and kept in a prison cell with no one to communicate with but the prisoner next door, Valerie (Natasha Wightman). Finally, Evey is told that if she does not tell the government where V’s hideout is, she is to be executed immediately. She says nothing. She is set free. She finds out that V staged her imprisonment to help her get rid of her fears. Understandably so, she’s pretty mad at first. But after this experience, she feels more than ever that she’s ready to stand with V on the fifth of November.

     Meanwhile, Inspector Eric Finch (Stephen Rea), chief of police for Scotland Yard, finds out for himself the corruption within his government, which also was the cause of the United States government being overthrown. And eventually, the fifth of November rolls around, and by this time, V has organized the murder of many government officials and prepared the population for the destruction of Parliament. So he finishes off Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith), the head of the secret police, and his men, being fatally wounded in the process. Evey finds him, and before he dies in her arms, he shows her an underground train headed toward Parliament loaded with explosives, and asks her to be the one to send the train out. She does, putting V’s corpse inside, and accompanied by Finch, she goes to watch the fireworks—literally. And in a pretty epic ending, the “1812 Overture” plays to the bombing of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and fireworks in the shape of a “V”, as thousands of rebel civilians look on.

     I’d like to thank Wikipedia for helping me remember this dang plot, because truthfully, I wasn’t able to see “V for Vendetta” again while watching this. Oh well. But you know what else Wikipedia told me? According to columnist Don Feder, “‘V for Vendetta’ is the most explicitly anti-Christian movie to date”, for not only its negative portrayal of religious leaders and its positive portrayals of homosexuality, but also for the whole idea of rebelling against authority, as V does in the film. But you know, that’s not the idea I got at all when I saw the film for the first time. Anti-Christian? I wouldn’t say that. In fact, V almost seemed like a Christ figure to me, in the same way that Bruce Wayne’s Batman did in “Batman Begins”. (Don’t believe me? Read my article.) Think about it—V is leading a rebellion against a government that took what was once a peaceful country and turned it into a fascist system. Did Jesus do something like this?

     In a way, He did. When he preached, he wasn’t very subtle about the hypocrisy that he saw in the religious leaders at the time. The Pharisees, for the most part, had twisted religion to make themselves look more powerful than God was supposed to be, and it made Jesus mad. In three of the Gospels, Jesus goes into a temple to find merchants selling all kinds of things, and He starts turning over the moneychangers’ tables, telling them, “‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers.”’” (Matthew 11:17) Later in that Gospel, Jesus devotes a whole chapter to calling the Pharisees out for their hypocrisy, in Matthew 23.

    And as Jesus called out the religious authorities of the day for taking something so sacred and turning into a self-serving system, V in “V for Vendetta” rebels against his government for taking too much corrupt control and not letting the people think for themselves. And though it’s a bloody fight, V succeeds (sort of) in his mission to give the people back their power. At the end of the film (and this part is what really reminded me of “Batman Begins”), during V’s last fight with Creedy, being shot at by Creedy but still able to move because of his bulletproof vest, Creedy cries out:

CREEDY: Why won’t you die?!

V: Beneath this mask, there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask, there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.

     And at the very end, as Parliament is exploding, when asked by Finch who V really was, Evey tells him:

EVEY: …He was my father. And my mother. My brother. My friend. He was you. And me. He was all of us.

     V was more than a vigilante. He was the symbol of resistance against corruption. He was more than just a man—just as Jesus was more than just a human man. My prayer for you, the reader, is that you will live for Jesus with all you are, leaving behind your human desires and putting them aside for a purpose greater than yourself—His purpose.

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