Next time you think about voting, don’t. For anything. It won’t make a difference. Trust me, I’ve seen the future and we’re all screwed. Don’t believe me? Then take a look at 2005’s "V for Vendetta" and behold a near future where the former-US, along with the rest of the world, is devastated by war and economically defunct.
Only England prevails.
But it’s not the same Jolly Olde England you know and love from Mary Poppins or Guy Ritchie films, but a Marxist, Orwellian dystopia where the lower class are worked to the bone; where their necks are stood on by the government. Where Big Brother and corrupt police finger-men are always watching.
Enough to make someone want to suit-up and fight back, right? Then follow Codename V’s lead and get ready for a double suit-up scene featuring Hugo “Agent Smith” Weaving, and the one and only Natalie Portman.
VFV’s suit-up plays out in two locations; Codename V’s (Weaving) dressing room and Evey’s (Portman) apartment. First things first: For the duration of the scene, government talking head/tv talkshow host Louis Prothero (played by Roger Allam) is broadcasting his nightly vomit over government controlled media airwaves. It’s interesting that director James McTeigue and screenwriters Andy & Larry Wachowski choose to mimic a narrative technique used in the original 1989 Alan Moore & David Lloyd graphic novel by shooting this entire scene with his voice-over as the on-screen action unfolds. Other then Prothero, there is almost no dialogue from Portman or Weaving as they suit-up. This makes for an effective way of establishing tone and advancing Portman & Weavings characters into the next scene and works in exactly the same way as the narration in the graphic novel. It’s remarkable when the transition from page to script to screen works this perfectly. Not so much when it doesn’t (Batman: The Movie’s onimonapea fight scenes, anyone?).
So V, deep within The Shadow Gallery, TV set on, he’s sitting in front of a large mirror, dressed entirely in black. Pants, shirt, gloves, wig with cute little bangs cut across his forehead. Everything around the guy, from the lighted mirror to the pedestal-mounted statue to the vintage drapery screams Vaudeville. In the mirror, where we never see his face, V puts on a mask, much like a comedy/tragedy mask, but really a rendering of Englishman Guy Fawkes, who, in true seventeenth century cult hero fashion had a wacky idea to try to blow up parliament. Now, you could call it reading a little too much into the shot, but as V puts on his mask the view switches into a first-person perspective, same as if it was you sliding the mask onto your own face; maybe as if to say that anyone can be V... anyone could be Guy Fawkes. Even you.
This kind of symbolism echoes throughout the scene, as well as the film. MeTeigue pulls an Alice in Wonderland and takes us through V’s looking glass, transitioning into a small, modest, completely normal apartment, where at the same moment in time Portman’s character, Evey, is applying lipstick at a vanity (a clever subconscious allusion to make-up as a mask). Prothero’s program is on her TV as well. From here on out we bounce back and forth between settings as the parallels between the characters are drawn and it’s a very interesting Pong match:
Back to V, who is meticulously brushing his wig (which is only a tad bit disturbing). Bounce back to Evey slipping on a black dress. Quick cut as she sheathes each foot into heels. Flash to V pulling on intimidating black boots. Back to Evey, roping a necklace around her throat. Back to V belting an arsenal of knives around his waist; we even get the obligatory snikt! as the knives slam down into their beveled notches (+1 to melee stats). He throws on his cape, then once more back to Evey, perfuming, brushing her hair (while she still has it). Putting the final touches on her costume as well; that of a beautiful, brave young woman in an ugly and cruel world. Here she delivers the only line in the scene. When Prothero’s propaganda spiel comes to a head, she grabs the remote points to the screen and says: That’s quite enough of that now, thank you very much. Click.
VFV’s opening suit-up scene ends with V silencing Prothero with a remote in the same manner and moves on to the damsel in distress portion of the film then eventually to - SPOILER WARNING - blowing up Parliament and starting a revolution; duh.
If you’ve seen this film all the way through, then you can see how the parallels drawn in just this short length of suit-up time echo throughout the film, parallels far more thought-provoking than the innocence they portray. See, it’s not just about some woman sick of being oppressed or a masked weirdo with a Count of Monte Cristo complex; it’s about a woman desperate for change and a man painfully willing to give everything for it. It’s the subtle film of numbness gleaning over that dark pool of revenge fermented in the belly of the beast. In a very beautiful and subtle way, this scene shows that these characters are intertwined by fate.
Again, call it too many viewings, call it over-analyzing, but the line Portman delivers as she clicks off the tele; That’s quite enough of that now, thank you very much; that innocent sounding statement, it sums up the plot of the film nice and tidy and lets you know exactly what you're in for.
This is by no means a kinetic piece ala "Commando" or "Rambo: First Blood Part II", but it does the job in a very cinematic way, a comic book panel come to life. This is either genius filmmaking or dumb luck. Either way, it’s highly effective and more than entertaining.
Strength through unity! Unity through faith!