Philosophy and V - Lacan & Nietzsche
The title is quite simple and can explain in a few words what the movie is about: A man who goes by the name of V seeks vengeance for those who wronged him. Those people in this film pass themselves as the moral good but they are the ultimate corruption of power that abides and rules by the slogan: Strength Through Unity. Unity Through Faith. There are obvious religious undertones here that will be discussed later. The first half of the film is primarily based on V's revenge against a certain group of people within this corrupt Government. The latter and most primary part of the movie is restoring power to the people. The actions of V, throughout the movie, are on the surface very violent but as he says in the film: violence can lead to justice. V's actions are only considered horrible, wrong; and evil acts of terrorism because the corrupt Chancellor deems them as such. This creates a moral contrast of the good government and the bad people. The struggle in this movie is between the fascist leader of England, High Chancellor Adam Sutler and V, who swears revenge on behalf of himself but most importantly, the people of London.
The movie opens with the words: Remember, remember, the fifth of November. In a flashback sequence we are shown the capture of Guy Fawkes who plotted to destroy the parliament and the king in hopes of reinstalling catholic reign throughout England. As we see Fawkes be captured and executed we listen to Evey (Natalie Portman
) talk about the nature of an idea. It cannot bleed, it cannot be killed, but neither can it love. As Fawkes is executed we see him looking at the one women in the crowd who is watching him with tears in her eyes while everyone else bays for his blood. Evey concludes that this story is about a man who made her remember the fifth of November.
In the not too distant future England has become a land ruled by a fascist government under the guise of God. We are introduced to Lewis Prothero, known as The Voice of London. He is a religious fueled right winged maniac TV host whose ranting is filled with resentment and embodies the vengeance of God. As he speaks we see Evey getting ready to go out and we see V getting ready to go out. She is putting on her makeup, he is putting on his mask. Prothero's closing words are as follows:
No one escapes their past. No one escapes Judgment. You think he's not up there? You think he's not watching over this country? How else can you explain it? He tested us, but we came through. We did what we had to do. Islington. Enfield. I was there, I saw it all. Immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, terrorists. Disease-ridden degenerates. They had to go. Strength through unity. Unity through faith. I'm a God-fearing Englishman and I'm goddamn proud of it!
Of course Prothero is a fraud and a loathsome person and his words are propaganda for the government. The words spoken by Prothero are fueled with resentment towards people who are different than himself and his cohorts. He blames Immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals etc for the problems that London faces and for the reason why such a Government exists to protect the people. We later learn that a virus led to the death and destruction that allowed the new government to take control. Like Hitler they make good use of a crisis to blame certain people for the problems of the nation and then put themselves forward as the solution. The men in power order militaries to do their dirty work while they sit back and preach hate and holy wrath upon those who dare disobey. Evey shuts of this television program and goes out walking past curfew. She is going to meet "dinner" with her boss from work, Deitrich (Stephen Fry
). It is inferred that Deitrich frequently has attractive young ladies "come over for dinner". As Evey goes out past curfew she is approached by some government men who stop her and prepare to rape her. V appears and puts the men down. When Evey asks him to identify himself he gives a short speech using V alliteration to introduce himself and tell us and her a bit about him. He views himself as a sort of freedom fighter who is standing up for the masses and opposing the government. V then destroys The Old Bailey building while playing the 1812 Overture over the government's speaker system that is installed throughout the city. Evey, who is most certainly confused as to what is going on just observes this explosion. On top of The Old Bailey, which is a criminal court, there is a statue of lady justice holding a sword and scale. This is now a joke in the face of such a government. The morality here is that Justice is handed out because those who disagree with the powers that be are silenced and killed.
After the explosion we are now introduced to several characters including High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt
) who most certainly resembles Adolph Hitler. He fears that this act of terrorism will give the populace reason to rebel. Sutler requests that Prothero goes on the air to spin this story and to reinforce the idea that the Government is good and that V is the terrorist and he reason the world is as it is. Anyone who takes up V's crusade or belief will be swiftly dealt with. Moreover, V's actions are labeled as a test of faith that England and its people must overcome. Here V and anyone who dare take his lead are now labeled as a terrorist and this firmly established the Government as the moral good and V as the moral bad or the terrorist. Another character we meet is called Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith
) who is the head of the secret police. And we meet another main character, Finch (Stephen Rea
), who is the head police inspector (I believe) and has been a member of the ruling party for quite some time. He is charged with finding and capturing V. We also see that he has some doubts about what the government is doing but continues to work for it. The decision is made that Evey needs to be arrested and he and some officers go to do so.
We see Evey again and learn that she works at the Government-sponsored news agency. Unbeknownst to her there is a delivery of Guy Fawkes masks made to the news agency building. V then appears, takes out one of the security guards, and takes control of the main broadcasting room. He begins to broadcast a pre-recorded speech (while securing the door to the room and putting the V masks on everyone so the security can't tell who the real V is when they break in). In his speech he describes himself as a common Londoner and points out to the populace there is something terribly wrong with this country. That cruelty and intolerance put forth by the government is a means of oppression and vilifying the public as the evil ones which in turn justifying the actions of the Government. He gives the public the truth about the destruction of The Old Bailey: that he did it to remind the country of justice and of the fifth of November and how Guy Fawkes attempted to bring down the King. It was to remind the world that fairness and justice is more than words but a perspective. He says "How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid....Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler." V asks for the support of the people and that they gather a year later in front of the Parliament to make their stand and choose whose side they are on. The broadcast concludes and while V is making his escape he is briefly held at gunpoint by a police officer before Evey sneaks up behind the officer and sprays him with some mace. The officer knocks her out, V knocks out the officer, and then with no other choice he takes the unconscious Evey with him as he leaves.
When we next see Prothero, he is talking on a gold cell phone. He is listening to his evening broadcast in which he says that he wishes he had a chance to be there when V attacked the newsroom - which is just blustering on his part. He says that V's message was one of hate and delusion. Good guys win, bad guys lose and as always, England prevails! Again his feeling of resentment lack any action and it just reinforces the good vs. evil construct his government created. V shows up in his house and Prothero becomes the first victim of V's revenge plot. V addresses him as commander before killing him. As of this moment, V's motive is not yet fully established. Prothero is now dead and the powers that be must explain his death. As the voice of London the voice of God is now dead, his death would show a huge weakness in the fascists message and also show the emptiness that comes with relying on the Government-sponsored punishment by God. In an investigation by Inspector Finch, Prothero is revealed to be one of the richest men in London thus elevating him into a higher class, which again separates the good from the bad.
Evey wakes up at V's house and along with V watches the newscaster falsely report that Prothero died of a heart attack while at work. Evey commented earlier that she can tell when the newscaster is lying because she blinks too much and the newscaster is blinking like crazy as she says that Prothero will be sorely missed. Evey is upset with the fact that V murdered him because she as of yet does not understand his motive or the idea of swift revenge. V explains to Evey that violence can be used as means of Justice. V's actions are not evil because that is not his intention. His intention is to outwardly extend his resentment into acts of revenge.
The scene changes to Inspector Finch who finds out that Prothero was involved in some sort of Government-sponsored detention facility. Over a short montage of footage we learn that Evey's parents were people who went against the Governments rule and subsequently killed. Too frightened to take revenge, she asks V that if there is anything she can do to help. Meanwhile, Inspector Finch discovers that a priest who also worked at this detention facility may be V's next victim. The priest is now an Archbishop in London. We don't see this character for very long but learn that he is a pedophile who has a lusting for very young women and regularly molests them. One of his aides reports that the most recent girl sent to him by some agency is a little older than normal and the Archbishop is turned off by that until he goes into his room and sees that the girl is Natalie Portman dressed in a manner to make her look young and innocent like a schoolgirl. Evey tries to warn him that V is coming to kill him but the priest thinks she is just 'playing a game' and tries to molest her until she knees him in the crotch. She has left the window open for V to get in and he enters the scene and goes about killing the priest. In such irony, the priest asks V to have mercy before he is killed. Evey, at this point not really on V's side and scared, makes a break for it and runs away and flees to the only friend she can think of who can hide her, her old boss Dietrich.
We learn through Inspector Finch that there is one person besides the politicians, media moguls and priests that V seeks. It is a woman by the name of Delia (Sinéad Cusack
) who was a doctor in the detention facility. We meet Delia in her bedroom at night and she wakes up to see V and tells him that she is sorry for what she did and asks if it is too late to apologize. V says it is never too late but that he has already killed her (by poisoning her while she slept). It is interesting to note that of all his victims she, both a doctor and a woman, is the only one who seems sorry for what she did and is the only one he kills in a merciful manner. Regardless, V suffered at the hands of Delia so he is justified in this killing.
When Finch finds her dead and talks about her to the Chancellor, he is told to cease all investigation into this detention facility or else face charges of high treason. The film cuts to what seems to a narration of Delia's diary. It seems that a virus was the cause of the demise of the United States and that the detention facility we have heard about was in fact a research center where subjects were used to test a vaccine. Here we see Prothero, Delia and the priest/archbishop.
Delia wrote in her diary that all the test subjects colored people, homosexuals, Muslims. In my opinion Delia felt justified to experiment on them because they were weak and did not bother to do something about it therefore it was her superior right to eliminate the weak just because she could, but that is only my opinion. It is also possible that she simply felt she was working for the greater good. Now we learn a little about the origins of V. The patients are all in cells numbered (using chalk) with Roman numbers and V is Patient Number Five and the only person to survive the experiments being done on everyone. It can be safely assumed that as a result of the experiments he is somewhat super human. At various times he shows signs of being stronger, quicker, and hardier than other humans but not to an extreme. On the fifth of November, there is a fire that starts somehow (it is never made clear if it is simply an accident or if V causes it somehow). During the fire V escapes although he suffers some very serious burns and he has forgotten who he was.
Meanwhile, we go back to Evey and Dietrich. We learn that Dietrich is one of the things that the government hates. While he frequently has young girls "over for dinner" as that sort of thing is expected of someone in his position and power, he is a homosexual and is not attracted to women. While everyone thinks he is having his way with the women he invites over in a funny little twist he really is just having dinner with them. He has a secret room with various outlawed items including a copy of the Quran. Dietrich is the host of a variety show that is heavily censored but for unknown reasons he has gotten tired of the censorship and has decided to do a show mocking the Arch Chancellor. We see the broadcast of the show and Dietrich announces that tonight's special guest is Arch Chancellor Sutler himself! Of course, the Arch Chancellor did not come on the show, but this is (not that far) in the future and Dietrich's show has used CGI to make it appear that the Arch Chancellor is on the show, when he was not. The fake Sutler is claiming to have captured V. A charade ensues where V ties the Chancellors shoes and then slips him a fake cigar that explodes in his face when Sutler lights it. Dietrich shouts "He's over there" and we see V standing in with the band apparently playing a washboard with a spoon (which I thought was hilarious). As the Benny Hill theme plays the guards and Sutler chase V around the room until they all slip on a banana peel and land in a heap. The Chancellor confronts V and demands the mask to be removed. It is removed and we see that under the mask is the Chancellor himself the true terrorist! As the audience roars with laughter the two fake Sutlers fight each other in a very undignified manner. Finally they both shout at the guards to shoot each other and the guards shoot them both and the show ends. Meanwhile we see the real Arch Chancellor Sutler is furious about this and he sends the police to capture Dietrich who is taken away and (we learn later) executed. Evey is also captured and taken away for interrogation. She is told to give up V's location or face charges of terrorism and death. She refuses and the guards shave off her hair (on camera, that really is Natalie getting her head shaved) and throw her into a cell.
Over an unknown period of time Evey is tortured and tormented as the government tries to get her to break and reveal V's location. But while she is in her cell she finds a letter left by former prisoner named Valerie (Natasha Wightman
). Valerie was a homosexual and talks about growing up as such, having to tell her parents, being kicked out of the house, and how the problems in America came to England and subsequently led England to persecute those who were different sexual orientation or in interracial relationships, etc,. Her message was to not let the powers that be take the self away from the person. The self in this movie is the uniqueness that the Government has suppressed. Valerie closes her letter with a message of love to whoever reads it (and ergo to all people). Evey finally sees the truth and hypocrisy of this English government and as she reads the letter she stops refusing to reveal V's location because of simple defiance and starts to be motivated by love. (original poster states his opinion that 'At this moment she comes to embody the revenge that V carries as well as to act on the revenge that Valerie was not able to take' but that is opinion.) Evey finds herself at peace now and having continued to defy the secret police the head interrogator condemns her to death. The guard takes her back to her cell and makes one last plea to her to save herself by "just give them something, anything." She calmly refuses and the guard tells her "Then you have no fear any more. You're completely free." And walks away leaving the door open.
Evey walks out of the door and it is established that Evey was actually saved by V from the police raid and that V has been her captor the entire time. (We are not given details as to how he accomplished this all by himself. It would seem rather difficult to pull this off with just one person but it is always possible he is not entirely alone and had another person or two working with him to maintain the illusion of her being held in prison by the government. It's not important to the plot so we are not told). This was V's supreme lesson to Evey. She needed to experience first hand the hunger for revenge. She screams that she hates V and he replies "That's it! See, at first I thought it was hate, too. Hate was all I knew, it built my world, it imprisoned me, taught me how to eat, how to drink, how to breathe. I thought I'd die with all my hate in my veins. But then something happened. It happened to me... just as it happened to you." In her cell as she read the letter from Valerie she "found something that mattered more to her than life". It is up to the individual to decide whether what she found was a desire for revenge or if she found love while she was imprisoned. But now, rather than live with the inward anger, she is ready to express it outwardly. V explains to Evey that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The treatment against V, Valerie, and the populace will eventually come back strong and the elitist in power will be toppled. The superficial strength, backed by a false faith in God is going to be exposed by V as a rule by means of terror. When the populace witnesses the fundamental weakness of a government, it will react swiftly and accordingly. After this, Evey attempts to kiss V but stops short. She then asks to leave and V lets her go. V is not happy with the fact that she does not want to remain by his side so he smashes a glass and begins to weep. We see that he must love Evey to some extent and hoped that his drive to change her would give meaning to his life or at most a partner in crime so to speak. He does not want to be known as the embodiment of violence but wants to be loved by an individual as well as the people. Since he cannot attain love from another he would rather will the destruction on his oppressors than to have nothing at all. My interpretation of this is that without love, he is left to destroy the government and his enemies so his life could gain meaning such as him being the liberator of the populace.
Meanwhile Inspector Finch has been trying to find out the truth about the detention center but he is being blocked by the government. Even his motives are questioned. Eventually Inspector Finch finds a name, William Rookwood, that was involved with the detention center and is still alive. He is contacted by William Rookwood, but it is actually V in disguise who meets with him (claiming to be Rookwood) and tells him the truth. V tells the inspector about why the detention facility was created. He also elaborates on how the Chancellor was able to secure power over a venerable London. The Chancellor was who comes to power over a vulnerable England after an epidemic destroyed the United States and will soon threaten England. We are shown what resembles a Nazi rally as The Chancellor vies for the peoples vote. The facility was to be a biological research facility used to find a cure for the virus that destroyed the US. In typical government corruption, it was actually a project to take control of the populace by means of biological control. The Chancellor enacted a program to disperse the virus and to cause a panic so he can take power of the vulnerable citizens of London. We also learn at this point that the man who, in a lot of ways is the worst of the group, is now the head of the secret police: Creedy. It was Creedy who came up with the idea of unleashing the virus at a children's school to maximize the reaction from the public. The Chancellor mirrors the image of Hitler and convinces Londoners that they must vote for him or fall victim to terrorists. Under his control the government quickly contains the virus he released and appears to be effective at keeping everyone safe. As a result of this so-called terrorist attack the Chancellor comes to power.
After this scene V finally confronts Creedy and explains to him that the Chancellor will eventually turn on him. He promises to reveal his true self to Creedy if he gives the Chancellor to V. Creedy sees this as a chance to be the High Chancellor so of course he wants to take this position. This is encouragement for Creedy not because he cares for the people but because he can seize power over England. Creedy agrees and the endgame is now set. V leaves him with one final directive, if/when Creedy is ready to complete the deal he is to make a mark of a 'X' over his door with a piece of chalk as a signal that he is ready to deliver Sutler to V. This mirrors the detention camp where the cells were all numbered with chalk.
Time passes and as the fifth of November nears, V masks and robes are delivered all over London. We are shown a montage of imagery a young girl painting a V over the Chancellors Slogan. Several other people use the V masks to commit crimes and spread anarchy. The populous has finally had enough. Meanwhile, Finch starts to put the puzzle together, the connection between Guy Fawkes and V, the detention center and Chancellor Sutler's rise to power. He says that one event will turn the country upside down. The young girl who painted the V is seen wearing the mask and skipping through the streets but is suddenly shot in the back by a police officer. When the neighborhood comes out, ready to kill the man who did it, the man flashes his badge as a symbol of power (a false power). He is then beaten to death by the angry crowd.
Evey returns to V and confronts him about his mask. She knows nothing of him, his true face, his past or his family. V responds that behind the mask are muscle and bones and who he was died in the detention facility. We do not need to know who V was. V is a symbol of who the common Londoner should be: One who rises up and takes back what was theirs: Free to live as they want, to question authority and to be the power of their nation. It took the likes of V to make this clear to the people: That they are slaves of the Government and subsequently relinquish control of their lives to God. The scene where the mob attacks the man who murdered the girl is evident that the people are now assuming a new and free identify.
After Evey talks with him, V brings her to an abandoned metro station where he has assembled a large bomb in a functioning subway car. V explains to Evey that this is his gift to her. The tunnel leads to the old subway station under the house of parliament and Evey has the power to destroy the parliament and end this regime once and for all. V leaves it up to her to make the choice of activating the car and the bomb or not. V has done his part: He has killed those who wronged him and has changed the voice of the people from the weak to the powerful. V's role in the world is now void because he will not be needed once the government is abolished and power is restored to the people. Evey is left to consider this while V meets Creedy who has promised to bring Chancellor Sutler to him.
When V meets the police, the film is cut between this meeting and a prerecorded speech of the Chancellor demanding everyone to stay in their homes. The Chancellor vows swift justice against V and anyone caught outside after curfew. We see that all the living rooms and areas in front of the television are now void of an audience. I interpret this void of an audience as a symbol of the Chancellors lack of power. The usual audience is approaching parliament all dressed in their Guy Fawkes masks. While the chancellor is preaching about terrorism and evil, we see that the Creedy kept his word and brought the Chancellor to V. Indeed the true terrorist is out after curfew!
Creedy shoots the Chancellor in the head and demands V remove the mask telling him that all V has is his knives while Creedy and his men have guns. V responds "No, what you have are bullets, and the hope that when your guns are empty I'm no longer be standing, because if I am you'll all be dead before you've reloaded." The police empty their guns at V but he is wearing his mask and has a thick sheet of metal underneath his costume to protect his vital organs. The experiments done onto V rendered him strong enough and as a result V survives their bullets and slaughters the entire police force as well. As Creedy shoots him with his own pistol V tells him "Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof." He then kills Creedy.
A wounded V returns to Evey who is patiently awaiting his return. He tells Evey that for the 20 years since his escape and transformation, all he could see was his revenge and the bombing of parliament. However, when he met Evey, his motivation changed and she instilled meaning into his life. He subsequently fell in love with her. Evey showed him that he was not an empty and faceless human embodiment of revenge but someone who still has the capacity to experience human emotion. Evey puts V's body into the subway car and is ready to send it to Parliament when Inspector Finch confronts her and demands that she does not pull the lever. Until this moment, Inspector Finch was on the side of the government but he slowly begins to understand why V was doing what he was doing. He is caught in a moral dilemma. He was sworn to serve under the Government but he has come to realize face to face with the atrocities that his own government committed. To murder Evey would be worse than if the Chancellor was still alive. As the Londoners dressed in Guy Fawkes outfits converge on Parliament, Inspector Finch allows Evey to send the subway car to its final destination.
As the military is at a stand still the Londoners approach parliament. Without anyone to give orders to shoot, they let the people pass. We are finally treated to the ultimate show the destruction of the corrupt government that passed itself off as the good. As Parliament goes up in flames the people of London are finally free! It is unclear who will emerge to lead them but they will no longer be vulnerable or fall victim to another corrupt leader. The weak are now the strong and their unity through strength has toppled the ideas that the government so cruelly enforced.
The following is a statement of opinion and theory by Solidus_7705: This movie embodied Nietzsche's idea of the Moral Good, which was set up under Christianity. It also shows how the government was fundamentally weak because of the resentment they carried. They relied on tactics of fear and the voice of God to invisibly reinforce the fact that the wrath of God will soon strike anyone who went against the government. Prothero claimed that the godlessness would not escape the justice of God. This government took away the arts and the music which one can say is an outwardly expression of the people. They were forced to live inward through religious experience and mostly fear. The right and wrong created by the Government turned the people against each other and themselves as we saw when the man murdered the girl in the V mask.
V's identity was built upon how the people identified with him. If they did not support him as a symbol of hope, he would have meant absolutely nothing. In the case of Inspector Finch, his true self was given back to him inverted when he met Evey in the metro. He saw that he was to uphold the law, but when he learned of the Governments covert actions, through investigation, he realized that his role was inverted and that he worked for the people and not the fascist Government. Prothero, as we see him in the shower reciting his lines was obsessed with his image as a direct voice of God. He even went as far as to call his producer to complain about the way his nose looked on the air. V looked to Evey in hopes that she would confirm to him that he was capable of love and not only violence. At his dying moment this was confirmed. The I AM was represented by V I AM the voice of the people the oppressed. The ME was represented by the people. It is ME who lives this life without music, without flowers, without art. Sutler was the ultimate failure of recognition. He saw himself as a savior, and I suppose he really though he was and the people believed it but it took V to convince the majority of the people that he was mis-recognized as such.
After watching this film with what I learned from Nietzsche, Lacan, Descartes I realized that the movie went deeper than just revolution and action.
- heavy edited and reworded by maximumcool in May of 2013 to be more accurate and point out what was the original poster's opinion and not stated in the movie.