January 10, 2007

V For Vendetta

V For Vendetta is top value viewing, because you get about ten films for the price of one. It's the most glued-together-from-kit film I've seen in ages. Included in the box is: the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Count of Monte Christo (with free clip!), Zorro (with free hat and customised letter!), the Matrix, 1984, Beauty and the Beast, Elizabeth and the world-weary detective from Blade Runner. And that's before you count it's ostensible roots in the DC graphic novel of the same name.

Any review of this film is going to fall foul of what the film critic Steven Tan diagnosed in overly involved analyses of Jurassic Park: it's a kid's film about dinosaurs that come back to life, so don't get too hung up on the technical details. In this case, V For Vendetta is a kid's film about all sorts of things, but mostly about a Zorro/Monte Christo/Beast character whose driving aim is to do terrible things to the terrible government that made him a terrible person.

And having notes Steven's advice, I'm going to ignore it temporarily and have a grumble about A Trend In Contemporary Cinema And Theatre. The promo at the time spent a good deal of effort and money pumping V as a chilling tale not wholly unrelated to our current political circumstances ("People shouldn't be afraid of their goverments, governments should be afraid of their people" was the tag ripped from the screenplay). The trouble with this is that vaguely gesturing at 1984 whilst making the cinematic equivalent of a "hmm" noise isn't politics, or if it is, it's the politics of noting that bad things suck. The stage production of 1984 put on by the Actor's Gang last year was worse, because it conned itself into thinking that reading out slabs of the book and dropping "Iraq" in every now and then constituted a big insight into anything we might be currently experiencing.

In a more just world, film-makers would be required to read Louis Menand's brilliant essay on George Orwell before they even think about shooting a film which even vaguely references 1984. In fact, a more just world would require everyone to have to apply to the Ministry of References before they even mentioned Orwell. Gesturing at Orwell explains nothing about our current situation. Using that gesture as the full scale of a work's political impetus just shows the lack of ideas behind the work.

So what is there to say about V? You could drive oil tankers through the holes in the plot, the characters would have trouble maintaining their ink outlines in a graphic novel, and the politics of the film are such that "people" V is allegedly trying to provoke into action consist of a small family in a brick semi-detached in the outer burbs of London and a large CGI crowd all of whom are wearing the same mask and cloak. There are some good swash-buckling sequences, and Stephen Rea does a good job of pretending he's in a different film. And I wish the Wachowsky brothers would get back to making tight, tense films like Bound rather than waste time and money on big empty gestures.

posted on January 10, 2007 at 11:47 AM by darren.