Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"V for Vendetta" satisfies and disturbs

"V for Vendetta"Last Friday I went to see a matinee showing of "V for Vendetta." This translation of a graphic novel into film was filled with scenes of violence, fight scenes with blood gushing and spattering, and simulated detonations of historic structures.

Gosh, it was satisfying.

And, gosh, it was disturbing to discover that somewhere inside me there was a level of emotional turbulence that would find those depictions of violence and destruction cathartic.

This was an anarchistic morality tale about a totalitarian government in a version of the U.K. where a Nazi-like party had risen to power after engineering the illusion of a terrorist attack through the outbreak of a deadly virus for which the party had the cure. The movie carefully guides the viewer to see how reprehensible the fictional government and its leaders are, and how justified its ultimate downfall is.

The movie begins with an explanation of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The protagonist in the film, who goes by the name V, always wears a Guy Fawkes mask. Hugo Weaving, who played V, had to communicate for his character with only gestures and his voice coming from behind the unchanging mask. Natalie Portman was quite good as Evey, the young woman who becomes a protege of V. Stephen Rea was also quite good as Finch, the detective who, while on the trail of V, comes to understand the secrets behind the rise to power of the totalitarian government.

It is definitely not a film for children, having received an R rating for strong violence and some language.

One of the taglines for the movie is "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." I realize that the experience of seeing this movie is one of the events that informs my discussion on this blog (here and here) of the Sunshine Act. I also realize that this is not a totalitarian setting, but it is so unhealthy when governments at any level keep secrets to maintain power, as opposed to occasionally holding some information in confidence for the betterment of all.

The hoarding and guarding of secrets only leads to less trust, and more reason for governments justly to fear their people. Secrecy feeds into a vicious cycle that can be very hard to break. The Pennsylvania Sunshine Law recognizes that the public's rights are "vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process." The continuation of illegal secrecy can only lead to poorer functioning of the democratic process. Governments ought to fear their people enough to do their governing through an open process.

With apologies to W.H. Auden, sometimes I think that we have seen the actual vision of open government but failed to entertain it as more than an agreeable possibility. There ought to be a way to arrive at a truly open government without encouraging people to pursue the convenient shortcuts through anarchy. Those shortcuts do not address the underlying problems of trust and do nothing to lay the foundation for better functioning of the democratic process.

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just had a question. Do you think that with you being a Pastor that you should of went so see such a movie? I know Pastors are not perfect people either, but in all don't you think some of the books and movies you go see are kind of on the dark side? People do all kind of things in the name of the lord....

Stewart said...

No, and I'm not sure where your "dark side" comment is coming from.

Let's revisit the books I have reviewed on this blog: a book on prayer, a book of poetry by a Tarentum native, a book of magical short stories by the same Tarentum native, and an award-winning children's book by an author who grew up in the Valley. Of course I also read the Valley News Dispatch regularly and comment on it here. Which of those seem to be on the dark side?

As to movies and DVD's I have reviewed, lets see... there was an IMAX documentary about walking on the moon, a DVD with an animation retelling the Jim Elliott story, a DVD with a documentary of the Jim Elliott story, a Harry Potter movie that lifted up values such as self-sacrifice for others, a feature film that retold a version of the Jim Elliott story, and eventually "V for Vendetta".

Which of these seemed to be on the "dark side" to justify your generalization?

Now I have a question for you. Who are you pretending to be? Last Saturday a user from the same computer pretended (incorrectly) to have personal knowledge that I don't like the Valley News Dispatch. And today I read this comment that includes the priceless turn of phrase "should of went." Are you now taking on the persona of a schoolchild, and if so, are you aware of your own "dark side"?

Xxelda said...

To Anon:

Yep, that book on prayer sure does indicate a dark side. Maybe the VND also.

You use the word or term 'perfect'. Does this imply that you yourself are perfect? Webster's has this big book of words and their meanings. I think you were looking for a different word here. But, my question to you is what makes you so 'perfect' and when did you become judge and jury as to what type of entertainment is allowed for a man of the cloth? Do you know this man or of him? If you did you would have never made such a ridiculous comment. Maybe I should rethink my membership with the church. I ceratinly wouldn't want to be led astray by a man who leads a wholesome, clean, giving, caring life. Yes, people do all kind of things in the name of the lord. How about you?

W. said...

Admitting you're a regular VND reader definitely signals your dark side, rev.

;)

Stewart said...

The person who posted the anonymous comment on March 31 has apologized for standing in judgment of me and is a friend of mine.

With the air clear about what was going on with that earlier question/criticism, I will elaborate on the decision I made to see that movie. The previews I had seen did not prepare me to expect the level of gore I found in the movie. I was expecting a martial arts/special effects movie. Perhaps if I had read more reviews of the movie I would have understood what the advisory meant, and would have gone to some other film that day. But sometimes I go to a movie or read a book without having made up my mind in advance how I will experience it. In this case, the experience of seeing this movie was something I had to process afterwards emotionally and intellectually. In the end, I did learn something about myself.