Sarah Abdel Rahman, an activist who ended up on TIME magazine’s cover page during the revolution referred to scenes from the film when I discussed the revolution with her. Guy Fawkes’ bumper stickers are stuck on the back windows of dozens of cars driving through Cairo traffic; his mask painted red, white and black resembling the Egyptian flag. The list goes on and on, there’s no doubt about it, in 2011 “V for Vendetta” stirred up as much conversations in Egypt as when it first spread controversy the day it was released here.
The controversy back then was one that split opinions between critics and film fans alike. Does the film promote terrorism? Is V a terrorist or a freedom fighter? By definition a terrorist is one of two things:
1. a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism
2. a person who terrorizes or frightens others
V does blow up buildings, but they’re usually empty after the curfew and he does kill policemen when they attack him. V is not a typical terrorist, for he terrorizes a group that uses terror to rule the masses. By definition the government portrayed in the picture could be considered terrorists as well for they are a group that “frightens others”. The only difference is V could also be considered a freedom fighter. The same can’t be said about the members of the British government in the film.
“People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.” was tweeted endlessly during the revolution, even though I fully disagree with what it says. Fear should not be the driving factor behind anything. In fact, a government should be at peace with its people and vice versa. In other words, there has to be a mutual aspect between governments and their people and it shouldn’t be fear by rather a mutual understanding. But this isn’t why I decided to write about the film. For a film that better understands this material, I recommend the superior “The Battle of Algiers”. Granted the constant referring drove me to revisit “V for Vendetta” and when I did, it wasn’t the controversy or the dozens of similarities between both the previous Egyptian regime and the government in the film that caught my attention. I decided to write about how the film delivers its message visually.
James McTeigue’s “V for Vendetta” starts with black and white opening credits. The human eye automatically associates black and white with old. Intense military music plays in the background and the images have aged markings on them like they belong to an old film reel. These credits resemble old footage of Nazi propaganda films which plays a major role in this film as historical context is one of its themes.
A narrated voice then transported to the 17th century, 1605 A.D. to be specific. We are introduced to man by the name of Guy Fawkes. He tried to blow up the house of parliaments on November the 5th of that year. Visually we know we’re witnessing the story narrated through the costume designs of a period hundreds of years old.
Fawkes is caught and he’s about to be executed in front of the public. We get a high angle shot of an angry crowd waving their fists into the air. The fact that the shot was angled from above helps the viewer look down at these people both literally and figuratively.
Fawkes is wearing a white shirt symbolizing his innocence. As the noose is tied around his neck, he searches for a loved one, the only sad person in a sea of angry people. When we finally see her, the shot isn’t set up from a high angle suggesting she’s the only righteous person there. We then get an extreme close-up of her eyes as a tear slides down her cheek. The use of a close-up is very relevant as it demands and