The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Every autumn, the people of the United Kingdom light bonfires and spark fireworks in a time-honoured tradition commemorating the capturing of Guy Fawkes, a York-born man caught guarding a selection of explosives intended for parliament and particularly King James I in 1604. Whether Fawkes was a murderer, a terrorist or a revolutionary is a question that has been pondered for over 400 years, so when Alan Moore’s comic book series V for Vendetta sought to explore the story in its own near-future fictional universe, fans clamored for a theme driven text that went down in history as one of the best selection of stories ever put to print in the comic book realm, and would eventually be adapted to the big screen by the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) and their director James McTeigue. Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman and John Hurt, the movie became a cult phenomenon, with masks of its main character, V, becoming a symbol of revolution the world over.
Revolution: a forcible overcoming of a government or social order, in favour of a new system.
This is precisely why we at The Film Magazine have chosen to present the 10 most notable moments from V for Vendetta in this very post. Disagree with us? Make sure to leave a note in the comments!
10 – V’s Introduction
Saving Evey (Portman) from the oppressive state, V’s introduction can be summed up in his opening dialog: “Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the “vox populi” now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V.”
9 – Evey Is Reborn
Evey walks right out of the prison she’s been tortured in only to discover that it has been V who has been torturing her. Angry and upset, she confronts the masked vigilante and runs to the same roof V first took her to for some fresh air. She screams out as the score lifts, and we are all invited to witness her becoming of a martyr for V’s cause. As she is shown to understand the truly personal nature of oppression, we too feel it through her.
8 – The Story
Meeting with the men tasked with finding you was always risky and V even got away with it wearing this costume! What’s not to love?! In terms of the meaning of the movie itself, we were finally given the backstory we had long since craved regarding our protagonist, and as such could satisfactorily declare that he was a “good guy”, ensuring that we began to feel the righteous presence of the character just as the people of the UK were doing within the universe of the movie at the same time.
7 – “I Killed You 10 Minutes Ago”
In the midst of a V killing spree, we see a more intimate and caring side of the character and we, importantly, hear the story of those on the other side of the war to our key protagonists.
Delia: You’re going to kill me now?
V: I killed you 10 minutes ago while you slept.
Delia: Is there any pain?
Delia: Thankyou. Is it meaningless to apologise?
Delia: I’m so sorry.
6 – A Rooftop Symphony
Blaring Tchaikovsky’s Overture (1812) over the government announcement systems, V takes his first strike against those in power with his destruction of the Old Bailey, all the while conducting the non-existent orchestra with a charisma we’d come to appreciate.
5 – Finch Spares Evey
The people of London, Guy Fawkes masks adorned, walk their way to parliament in hope and expectation of being freed by their revolutionary. It is the scene in the movie that perhaps most signifies the change caused by V’s actions and is potentially the strongest signifier for the new-found unity of the people. But, just as V is loaded into his underground casket, Red Roses surrounding him, Finch finds Evey at the trigger (in this case a lever) as the new Guy Fawkes. He could shoot, he could arrest her, but he doesn’t. The character tasked with studying and finding V, lets his foe complete his journey, signifying the completion of V’s ideological impact. All that’s left for him to do is complete his task.
Finch: Why are you doing this?
Evey: Because he was right.
Finch: About what?
Evey: That this country needs more than a building right now, it needs hope.
4 – The Revolutionary Speech
It’s one of the most viewed movie speeches on YouTube and one of the most iconic moments from the movie.
“Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, whereby those important events of the past, usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.”
3 – Ideas Are Bulletproof
You’ve wondered for vast portions of the film just quite what V is capable of and the ways in which he is to be considered a comic book hero, so when he’s confronted by Creedy and a group of henchmen in the London underground, it’s a thrill to witness him prove all of the above with a graphic demolishing of each of his foes, all while having taken full rounds of gun fire to the chest, arms and legs.
“Beneath this mask, there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask, there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.”
2 – The Dominoes Fall
As a young girl is killed by an authoritative figure and the government struggles to control V’s impending action, our hero is show to be erecting dominoes that he tumbles in correspondence to the people’s uprising in one of the movie’s more inspiring and typically revolutionary moments.
1 – V Finishes What Fawkes Couldn’t
The final crescendo in V’s masterpiece and the moment in the film most able to stimulate both visually and emotionally, the blowing up of parliament signifies the UK’s escape from oppression and the death of our charismatic, revolutionary and ultimately ‘good’ protagonist.