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April 26, 2006

Film Review: V is for Vendetta and H is for Holocaust

Der Danse Macabre III - © 2006 Lee Hobbs
Photograph: 'Der Danzig Danse Macabre III' © 2006 Lee Hobbs

Today's Film Review courtesy of English-blog contributor Rachael T.

*Warning: Article may contain spoilers!

Heroes in the Eyes of the Beholder

First a synopsis:

From the creators of the hit trilogy, The Matrix, comes a thrill ride of a movie that'll leave you quoting it for the rest of the day. V for Vendetta is a perfect blend of action, suspense, mystery, and drama, making the film . . .

. . . enjoyable for almost anyone to watch.

The story begins with a flashback of the infamous Gunpowder Treason by Guy Fawkes, this scene is very important in the film as it progresses. Back to the films present time, set in an alternate universe where England is a fascist Government. A young woman named Evey Hammond (played by Natalie Portman) is rescued from a group of corrupt policemen by a mysterious man, clad totally in black and wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. After one of the greatest movie monologues of all time (1:30 seconds of nothing but V words and pure genius) the man introduces himself as “V” (Hugo Weaving) and takes Evey to the roof of a building where he shows her the detonation of the old Bailey Building, an explosion V caused.

Unfortunately, a camera caught the two on the roof and since V couldn't be identified, the police were sent to track down Evey. Turns out, she works at a local news station and when they go to take her in for questioning, V appears and takes over the news station. He sends out his own report, stating that on November 5th of the following year, he will succeed where Guy Fawkes failed and blow up parliament. Total chaos ensues as the police try to stop the masked man from escaping, but he manages to slip from the grasp and is saved from a policeman by Evey. She is knocked out by the policeman and after V disposes of him he takes her to his home the Shadow Gallery.

This is only the beginning of this thrill ride of a movie as more questions rise in this tale of a struggle for freedom in a country where freedom is all but a dream. V for Vendetta is not the “action flick” the trailer depicts, it is more of a thriller that makes you think. Defiantly bring a thinking caps when watching this movie, you'll need it to understand V's better-have-a-dictionary-handy vocabulary. If you're one for mystery, a few but excellent fight sequences, and a view at what truly starts a revolution then this movie is for you. It is definitely worth the admission price and a tub of overpriced popcorn.

And now for my critique:

When someone mentions hero people often think of Superman. The perfect example of a human being. Strong, fast, invincible to anything that comes at him. With standards like these, people rarely know a true hero when they see one. As a result, comic book companies try to create heroes that are more "human", down to earth and sometimes have them face similar hardships that people in the past have faced; like a war or a great tragedy. V for Vendetta features a hero who suffered events similar to the Holocaust and therefore, bringing the people who survived that ordeal to light and recognizing them as heroes themselves. In several ways, this tragic hero and those who survived that great ordeal are very much alike and at the same time different.

A few years ago, a series of graphic novels called V for Vendetta came out and it was set in an alternate future in which England is a fascist government and the people have little to no rights. It's almost a glimpse at what would have happened if Hitler succeeded in his plans in WWII. It is a dark time for England and for it's people. Yet out of these dismal shadows rises a vigilante who believes that the government should fear the people, not visa versa.

He has a shroud of mystery over him, wearing a mask with Guy Fawkes' visage and clad totally in black, never showing an inch of skin. His origins are almost a complete mystery. The only thing known about him is that he was one of the thousands of people to be captured for crimes against the government (which ranged from bring terrorist to being homosexual) and sent to Larkhill Resettlement Camp, a concentration camp. Many horrible things were done to the inmates there which resulted in nearly all of them dying tragic and horrible deaths. A select few were taken and experiments of unspeakable horrors were performed on them. All of them ended up dying like the rest of the concentration camp, save for one. In room five, V in roman numerals, one man survived all that was thrown at him and he eventually destroyed Larkhill with a simple bomb made of mustard seed and napalm. This man, called V for his true name is never revealed, took his revenge and killed all those that performed those crimes against humanity in Larkhill, avenging himself and the lives lost at that dreadful place.

In many ways, V and others from that film suffered through the same as the Jews did under Hitlers reign and survived at a price. In a brief glimpse of his hand, it is apparent V is scarred horribly from the fire he caused. He has his external scars which act as a mirror to his mental ones. While most of the prisoners of the real holocaust aren't nearly as deformed as V, their psychological scars run just as deep if not deeper.

Much like actual concentration camps, those who were killed in Larkhill were thrown into a pile and burned like garbage. The monstrosities occurring in that place were covered up, just like in Nazi Germany. If the people knew what their government was doing to it's people there would be a public outrage and the people would become uncontrollable. So the government stated that the water near Larkhill was poisoned and wiped out many of the civilians that lived nearby when in reality they poisoned the waters to cover up what they were actually doing. The Nazis didn't go that far to cover themselves up, but that doesn't make the crimes any less despicable.

The differences between V for Vendetta and the Holocaust are not as notable as their similarities but they're there. The most recognizable difference is that V was a lone survivor that rose from the ashes of the tragedy in Larkhill and took his revenge, vowing to “vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition”. He was injected with experimental hormones and other experimental toxins till he had more alien fluids in his body then blood. In the Holocaust, many survived and they all rose up and became heroes for enduring such a hardship. They didn't have to be injected with serums to be heroes like V was, they were heroes for simply living, setting an example for ultimate endurance against terrible trials. Nor did they set out to kill those that wronged them. Is that saying that V was wrong in killing the people in charge of Larkhill? That is up to the reader of the comics and watchers of the movies to decide. Either way, the Jewish survivors didn't exact out their revenge quite as violently.

Despite one being fictional, and one being reality, these people are heroes that suffered the same. In a way, V can be just as real as the Jews and others who suffered the Holocaust. That's not saying that V will burst from the comic and start a Vendetta against terrorism now. No, what V does is serve as a reminder, a sort of memorial. It is through his actions and his words that people remember such things as the Holocaust and other great tragedies in history and remind those that live today to not repeat these actions. V reminds us to remember true heroes, real people, and honor them, thus making him a hero that is less fictional and more real himself.

~Rachael T.

Comments for Rachael's article "Heroes in the Eyes of the Beholder?" Please leave them below:

*Read more English-Blog Film Reviews HERE!

**To see other entries with samples of Lee Hobbs's travel photography, please visit the compilation available HERE.

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To see other English-Blog entries on the subject of Holocaust Studies, please click HERE

Posted by lhobbs at April 26, 2006 08:59 PM

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