There’s a scene in the film V for Vendetta where the captured Evey is released into the rain. Her imprisonment of an unspecified length was orchestrated by V to test her allegiance, her will, and her determination to fight for him – in political cause and love. Someone I met recently told me how this very scene made it their “favourite film of all time.” I refrained from asking him how many and what sort of films he’d seen in order to make such a grand, declarative statement. In fact, I found his unabashed adoration of the film enticing, albeit one I couldn’t help questioning in my head. He spoke of the near spiritual rapture the scene performed for its audience, by which he meant himself. He expressed a similar sentiment when he indefatigably said that Chicago was “the greatest city in the world.” Have you been to every city in the world, I asked. The words fell out like rain on Natalie Portman’s forehead, her head bald and body straggly – a further metaphor for my social prowess. Luckily, he took my vertiginous words in jest and the conversation carried on without a hitch. I felt relieved. In a previous conversation I had with another person that night, I inadvertently implied he was possessive of his girlfriend. My efforts to expunge the social error didn’t work, and he slyly joined another conversation. I wasn’t particularly distressed over this, since he worked in a lab with chemical compounds and micro-organisms, and made tedious references to Myth Busters – the one blight of SBS.
SBS’s online player is really good. The Nordic noir content is plentiful and consuming. In films, I recommend Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, the inimical Charlotte Rampling in The Night Porter, Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, and I Am Love with a steely Tilda Swinton. I didn’t ask my V enthusiast friend if he’d seen any of these, from which I then could indulgently lead the conversation to the future of American independent cinema, or the efficacy of historical narration in film. But of course I didn’t. I couldn’t. It seemed like this very V scene was holding him up, his words strung together in the hope of conveying even a semblance of its affect on him. I thought that surely he endured some personal crisis when he saw the film for the first time – a lover’s despair, suddenly orphaned like Evey perhaps, or some fetishized attraction to Natalie Portman – but his case seemed too well-reasoned, and not as emotive as those scenarios would permit.
I didn’t think about this until a week after I met the chap. Dozily browsing for something to watch one night, the conversation came to me, and I had to try and convince myself that I actually had it. Recalling his shooting arms and lyrical voice like V pontificating to Evey. I rented V for Vendetta and was absorbed for the next two hours. I partly resented myself for giving into the suggestiveness of the whole thing. Like I was somehow bound through this encounter to watch this epic film of political anarchy and tortured love. Yet I couldn’t help feeling compelled by its sweeping romance of words and ambitions – scenes of V conducting a symphony of explosions, or toying with Evey’s loyalty by feeding her a lesbian love story scribbled on toilet paper. It has a dark, fairy tale quality lulling you into a dystopian world with all its Orwellian prophecies fulfilled.
I’d seen V for Vendetta at least two times before this. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. It was somehow pushed to the back of my mind as more artful, perhaps pretentious films caught my attention. Films scornful or cynical of such overtly political themes. I think context has a part to play here. Released over a decade ago, I can’t imagine V popping up in cinemas today, calling audiences to become Anonymous agitators sworn against the absurdity of Trump’s America. Obviously it was made with Bush in mind, the writers were quite clear on that. Has political apathy got the final strangle-hold over citizens too swamped with information? Too removed from political reality? Recently, I saw an entire book dedicated to analysing Trump’s tweets. I felt slightly accused by V, poking his sword at my political dormancy; haranguing me for my disinterests and prejudices. But they are my talisman of selfhood – can I not stand at the precipice and hold my cultural thoughts against the tides of lobbyists, activists, gamekeepers committing me to causes I cannot keep up with? I wonder what my V friend would make of this, if I can call him that. Would he scrunch his brow and admire me for my self-analysis and transparency, or slyly join another conversation?
Words by Ryan Suckling
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 6 BLUE