Gothic Steam Phantastic

V for Vendetta

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Lots of people told me this is a great movie, many steampunks were talking about it. The trailer looked quite flashy and exciting. I missed it in the theatres, so now I had it on DVD. Anyhow, it was not quite my kind of movie. The best of it was the cover of the DVD...

The story is set in the near future, that looks exactly like today. Except for the fact that England is under a strict regime, and the U.S.A. has another civil war, so it seems. The European Union is out of sight, and there are no influences from the traditional freedom-proclaiming countries such as France or The Netherlands. One can argue if George Orwell’s 1984 was the inspiration for this movie, or the old communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But the setting of London looks more like it is set in the nineteenth century, the pictures reminded me of the nineteenth century as in From Hell, not of modern London, let alone a future London. It’s this mishmash of eras and places that gave me the feeling that none knew what the movie should be about.

The story is about a rebel against the regime, and the police inspector who tries to catch him. The inspector discovers that the rebel is in fact a victim of the regime, too. In the story, we meet more and more victims and rebels, people who are afraid because of who they are, and people who love freedom so much they put themselves in jeopardy.

The rebel, “V” is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. This is interesting for the story, because anyone with that mask could be the rebel, and anyone with the mask is the rebel. This fact is used more than often as a weapon by both sides. As one can see on the poster, thousands of men wearing masks together in one place, gives a surrealistic view.
On the other hand side, a main character with a mask that not only covers his features, but also his movements and emotions, is a rather static picture to see. This is underlined in the many boring monologues of “V”. You might as well be listening to a radio-show.
The weapon of V is the knife, hence the Vendetta, but he also uses explosives (as Guy Fawkes used to) and poison. In the fighting, it becomes clear this movie is made from superhero-material (from DC Comics). Hardly believable, stupid stances, and the slow-motion doesn’t make it more exciting. It could have been funny (as Wesley Snipes is at times in the Blade trilogy), but lack of emotion on the fighters face prevents this.

The second hero is Evey, a girl who accidentally meets V. According to the information on the DVD, she should be of the working class, but this is highly unbelievable. Her parents are no labourers, and her perfectly spoken English has a stiff upper lip that only is heard with the upper class. No Cockney accent here, no working, and no class either. She someone seems phony all the way, no matter what she does. In the story, she says she wanted to be an actress, and that is just what she does: acting, instead of being. Whether she is afraid, or angry, or in love: it never looks like she really is, it’s like she’s also wearing a mask and doesn’t care a bit about what happens around her, like a cardboard cut-out. Even in the end, where she is supposed to be freed from the regime.

This leaves the inspector to be the most sympathetic hero of the movie. A shame his character wasn’t worked out too well.

I think the movie makers wanted too much of the comic in the film. There are lots of bits and pieces that don’t really make sense, they come and go as quickly as a thought, without a true explanation. Thus, it was hard to understand the story for me, and rather impossible to understand the characters and why they were doing things.

Underlying is a story of love, a love-story, a story of freedom and self-respect. It’s more that, than an action-film or science fiction. Even set in the near future, there are no gadgets or things that are different, or more advanced than what we have. The inspector has a kind of gadget, but it’s not clear what he does with it. I noticed it, because I gave it to my dad the other year: it’s a small lamp to clip on your book or map. But the inspector doesn’t use it that way. It is, like most other props action and dialogues in the movie impossible why it actually is in the movie. Maybe it becomes clear on second view?
Maybe one can like the story because of all the love in it, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t even have seen the movie if I had known.

So, the question is: gothic, steam, phantastic? It is in no possible way steampunk, except for some pictures of a nineteenth century London. Gothic Horror? It is never frightening, not even the burning person coming from the flames, a shot that is repeated time and again. There is no tension in the movie, no sense of wonder, nothing that chills your spine. Phantastic then? To me, it is too realistic to be fantastic. The story, the setting, even the way the story is shot (Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari was more advanced at that point), it’s all realistic, without any creativity, it’s the story, sec, and you won’t get any more than that.

The DVD had no extras whatsoever.

If you want to discuss this movie, please use the forum.

© Yaghish 2007
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