Is V Really for Vendetta?

Is V really for Vendetta? In the 2005 film it is. In this incendiary movie, which was adapted from a graphic novel by Alan Moore, V (Hugo Weaving) dons a Guy Fawkes mask to foment violent revolution against a totalitarian regime in a post-apocalyptic Britain. Believing he will die soon, he trains Evey (Natalie Portman) to take up the torch of resistance.

The subversive plot

The plot of V for Vendetta is punctuated with comic book-style violence and diluted by a complicated and confusing backstory. Structured around young Evey's indoctrination, it begins when masked V rescues her from police officers bent on rape. He flamboyantly introduces himself with a line of patter that her curt dialog deflates.

They watch from a rooftop as the Old Bailey, symbol of Britain's justice system, explodes in flame and crumbles. Against Evey's will, but in romantic fashion, caped V sweeps her away underground. In his hidden lair, her training begins.

The heart of her training is confinement in what she believes is the Norsefire prison, where she is isolated and tortured. As a sign of her dehumanization, V blindfolds her and shaves her head. Finally, she is told that she will be executed unless she betrays her ideals. She chooses death, and is instantly free.

All along, she was in V's underground hideout, and he was her only captor. The purpose of her confinement is explained as: "You said you wanted to live without fear. I wish there'd been an easier way, but there wasn't."

Evey understands this, and she comes to love V as he loves her. A skeptic might explain her transformation as an example of Stockholm Syndrome, which causes captives to accept the worldview of their captors. In any case, she wholeheartedly commits to his vendetta.

The vendetta

A vendetta is a blood feud. The family of a victim of violence swears undying vengeance against the family or group that has killed a loved one. Vendettas can go on for centuries, as each side in turn seeks revenge.

The title word vendetta introduces a note of ambiguity into a story that is otherwise solidly in favor of flashy explosions and flowery language. If a vendetta by definition goes on through generations, then the very concept demonstrates that violence only causes violence and eloquent speeches only rationalize killing.

Without a doubt, V is training Evey to shed blood. Bloodshed is what the film is really about, the violence at the hands of the rulers of the film's dystopian England, and the violence that Evey comes to believe is a suitable answer.

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