Thursday, March 30, 2006

V For Quite Good, Actually

V For Vendetta has to be one of the most maligned film releases so far this year, sharply dividing critics who seem to either love it or loathe it. Having finall seen it, I can honestly say that I thought that it was OK, far better than I had expected, actually. OK, I know that the original graphic novel's author, Alan Moore, had his name removed from the credits, and that it doesn't faithfully follow every detail of the comic strip, but it still caputures the downbeat and oppressive feel of the original and retains the central character's essential ambiguity. Let's face it, literal translations of a work from one media to another are pretty much impossible. Whilst there's a school of thought which holds that the original text is sacred, the reality is that all texts, by their very nature, are interpreted differently by every reader anyway. It is inevitable when translated into a different media, it will be reinterpreted again, by both makers and audience. It's the nature of art, I'm afraid.

The fact is that the film V For Vendetta attempts to be faithful to the spirit and intent of the graphic novel V For Vendetta, whilst translating it into cinematic terms. Condensing the whole thing into a film with a running time of just over two hours means that, inevitably, plot details and some characters are streamlined, omitted or altered. However, the basic plot is the same, all the main dramatis personae are present and most of the comic's highlights are reproduced. The main changes evident have been forced on the makers of the film by history. The comic strip was, in part, a satire on the Thatcher years (when it was first published), portraying the possible results of the political policies and international climate taken in extreme. Clearly, this would mean little to the target audience of a film of this type, so the makers have sought to recast the source material in more contemporary terms, using the 'War on Terror' and the accompanying increased domestic repression as a background. The main faults of the film - a somewhat disjointed narrative (which becomes highly episodic as V pursues his personal vendetta during its middle part) and unevenness of tone - are also the faults of its source material.

Ultimately, the producers should be praised for retaining so much from the novel - it must have been tempting to ditch the British location (as in last year's Constantine), or have the hero remove his mask (as in Judge Dredd). But they didn't sucumb to such temptations. Perhaps most impressive is that they refused to turn V into a more conventional movie hero - he remains a violent, psychotic, even, killer, who is apparently happy to allow others, including children, to sacrifice themselves for his 'greater good'. In doing so, it retains the central dilemma of whether it ever is possible to use violence in the cause of good - at what point does it become legitimate to take arms against a government? A question even more relevant today, surely, than twenty-odd years ago. Let's face it, it is either incredibly courageos, or incredibly foolhardy, for amajor film studio like Warner Brothers, to release a big budget motion picture which portrays the terrorist as hero. Particularly in the present climate!

There, you didn't know you were going to get film reviews here, did you (at least, not of films which actually exist)? However, the V For Vendetta graphic novel has a special place in my heart and the film, whilst never quite capturing its power did, for a moment or two, take me back to the heady days of the early 1980s, when inner-city Britain was erupting into riots and, for one glorious moment, it looked like this country might be tumbling into a revolution! But times change, and so do we - the young left-wing would-be revolutionary of then is now a much more cautious middle-aged leftist, who has learned to be as suspicious of revolutionaries as of oppressive governments! If only it could be so simple as to simply go out into the steets and sove all our problems by mass defiance of authority...



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