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02 April 2006 @ 09:18 am
V for Vendetta  


I really enjoyed the movie. I went in blind--apart from knowing that it was the W brothers and having the vague idea that it was based on a graphic novel. I greatly enjoy seeing movies 'blind', as I hate preconceptions shaping my viewing (see my screaming cut-tag to protect others!) It was beautifully shot and built in a crescendo of escalating set-pieces. I liked the reveals about the past, I adored Hugo's performance as V, and I found the character of the inspector particularly fascinating.

You can hear the 'but' coming, can't you? But the first half of the movie left me reasonably cold. And the reason for that was Evee (Evie? Evey?). I was really confused by her--in the set up we see her venturing out at night, which implies she's a risk-taker. But then we see her set upon and she's all wimpy and pathetic (I was seriously waiting for her to at least kick the ankles of her attackers! Mace spray? Pfft!) Then we learn that she was the daughter of political activists. And her brother died tragically. In a flashback we see her giving out pamphlets. She's old enough at that time to remember it quite clearly, and yet she shows no sign of being interested in political activism. Throughout her encounter with V she exhibits a sort of wide-eyed naivety and polite little-girliness. Yes, she's drawn to him, but this isn't clearly linked to her consciousness--it's more a hypnotic power that he has over her. Where is her own self-identity? Where is her political awareness?

I ran through several theories in my mind.
A. This culture is repressive towards women and so she's more like a 1950s girl than a post-90s woman. Buzz! Wrong! There's no evidence for this--women hold at least some positions of power, in a reasonably equivalent degree to today's world. So no excuse there.
B. She was brain-washed after her parents were taken away. Evidence backing this up is that the inspector said she was part of a program. Great! Ok, I could buy that--this society is big on brainwashing. But this is never shown within the movie, never mentioned by Evie, and I would have found it way more convincing if she'd mentioned something about it in her 'Yes, I'm weak and afraid' confession speech.
C. The removal of her parents alone frightened her into submission. Ok, if that's the case than I blame the actress--because her shock at, for example, V's assassination of the Voice of Britain, came across more as moral outrage than fear. She doesn't really seem afraid--she goes calmly up onto the roof at the start of the movie. She's cowardly, yes, but happy in her cowardice. She's not fighting fear at all. When she sprays the policeman, she is shocked at herself. Not proud.
Could she be anymore insipid and annoying? Or incomprehensible as a character?

Thank GOD V tortured her! The movie got waaay better after that, though I still failed to find his love for her comprehensible. I had to go with physical beauty alone as the reason. But there was something very pedophiliac about this movie. In the scene where she dresses as a schoolgirl I suddenly clicked that maybe in the graphic novel she IS a kid. Or at least a teen. In the movie I was assuming she was late-20s or so. But if she was a child, her underformed self-identity and limited awareness would be more comprehensible.

Throughout the movie, they dressed Portman in ways that accentuated her skinniness and flat-chestedness, so I assume this is part of the look of the graphic novel's character. And yes, I admit, I don't like that look. I don't find it sexy so I missed out on that aspect of comprehending her character. Which is where the 'unpopular opinion' comes in, because my one attempt to voice my disconcertion ended in a screaming fight with a friend about it. Apparently it is not cool to dislike Natalie Portman. It was fine when everyone believed she was a snobbish uptight little bitch, but do a few pseudo-indie movies and she's untouchable! And she's gorgeous apparently. I see that she has a look that appeals to some people but not me. That's fine.

My problem with her in this movie was that despite a wonderful performance midway through (her reaction coming out of the quite brilliant torture), she still didn't quite manage to make the character coherent for me. I really perked up after the torture, hopeful that Evie's initial weaklingness was serving a purpose. It was such a relief to know that the writers/creators were aware of it as an issue. And it was brilliant to see her transformation. Fantastic!

But what did she DO after the torture? Nothing. Mooch around. I was waiting for some more self-creating actions. Instead her whole life was shaped by V, but even then she hesitated before committing to the train explosion. Aarrgh! I was grappling desperately to understand this, and I could only assume she was really thinking deeply about the political consequences--anarchy, chaos, repression, breakdown of infrastructure, etc. But I got none of that from the actress herself. And then as soon as V died, she was determined, so that makes no sense.

I loved V leaving the decision to her because it was her world, not his (wonderful generational thing--and another hint that maybe in the novel she was very young?) but I therefore wanted her to make a decision in her own right, for her own reasons, and I don't feel she did. She turned it into a memorial to him, but there was no sign she would have carried through with it if he hadn't died. Urgh.

I guess I'm particularly disappointed because I had the potential to love this movie beyond belief--cartoon imagery, engagement with big political issues, contemporary relevance, gorgeous shooting, suave mysterious superhero... but sadly we had only a Lana-Lang-like insipid child figure playing opposite him. Alas.

I buried myself instead in the inspector's journey, which I found far more enjoyable.
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HIKIKOMORI HIMEverbminx on April 2nd, 2006 10:09 am (UTC)
I thought NP's performance was kind of weak, and I don't think anything you're saying is unfair.

But, the stuff towards the end is pretty similar to the graphic novel. I would say... the "relationship" angle is a little lighter in the movie than in the book. Then something happens at the very end of the book (relevant to "would she have sent off the train if he hadn't died") that doesn't happen in the movie.

She starts out as a stronger character than in the book, because the girl in the book is a teenager who works at a match factory and who is out that night to try to prostitute herself. I know it went out in press materials or something that the movie character's age was advanced to 24. She's a waif in the book, basically.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Ameliebop_radar on April 3rd, 2006 08:08 am (UTC)
That's interesting. Thank you! It explains some of the holes in characterisation that I experienced. By the sounds of it, I wish they'd stuck with the original character concept of a younger, stronger figure.

What happened at the end of the book? (I don't mind about spoilers--I'm unlikely to read it myself now.)
HIKIKOMORI HIMEverbminx on April 3rd, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
Younger *weaker* figure in the book, actually. She has little purpose except survival, and little education, unlike the Evey of the film, who is more of a lower-middle-class adult. Book!Evey is certainly more impressionable.

Gordon in the book is just a schlubby guy who Evey picks up and who is murdered by some other criminals he's involved with... not her boss, not someone who strikes out at the system, not a sort of junior gay V. She goes to live with him when V kicks her out of the Shadow Gallery, which involves taking her out blindfolded to see something, then basically just leaving her there. She thinks she's talking to him but she's talking to, like, a broomstick dressed in a coat, connected to a tape player.

It's hard to explain the end of the book because there would be a lot to go into, but I think I was talking about the fact that she and V are closer at the end of the book than they are in the movie. IIRC they have been living together for a while, and basically are chastely in love. When he dies, she takes on the mantle of V (the costume, etc) and sends the original V to a "viking funeral" that he's asked for. That's the reason for putting him on the train and sending it off. I don't recall whether Finch is there to see her do it, but I don't think so. He's out wandering the countryside in disillusionment and disgrace, at that point.

Someone posted to either a V icon community or the V for adults community a link to a download of the gn for making icons with. It may have expired by now, but worth checking out. See the communities on my profile page and look back about two weeks? It's a big download, but you could read the last few chapters for yourself without having to bother with the whole thing.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: JRM icon black and whitebop_radar on April 4th, 2006 03:12 am (UTC)
Thanks! That sounds like a great option!
For half the movie I thought Evey was indeed going to take on the mantle of V--the film ending was not that satisfying, perhpas because the relationship between Evey and V hadn't been fully fleshed out.