Review by Jeff Krantz
Please don’t read this if you’re concerned about having the movie spoiled for you. (Though you’ll be able to predict most of the story. It is classic myth in the mimetic sense.) I still recommend that our readers see the movie. It paints a terrifying picture of the kind of totalitarianism that can result from the rhetoric we hear in our own day. It is only the solution that needs to be rejected.
I want so much to speak well of V for Vendetta. I liked it. It is beautifully crafted as a movie, and it makes as good an argument for redemptive violence as you can imagine. But in the end, it does not renounce violence as a means. Gene Shalit said it well when he summarized the movie’s philosophy, “Evil means are okay when they’re used against evil, to end evil.” (That’s the best I can remember.)
This is, perhaps, the most insidious way of telling the myth of redemptive violence. The Violent One is a monster created by the System. The Violent One recognizes the error in his hatred by way of “love.” The Violent One finally ends his own violence in an orgy of destruction, but the only victims are the Monster Makers (and their henchmen). By the end of the movie, we want so badly to buy into the idea that this time, this one time, violence might actually bring an end to violence.
It seems so plausible. The final scene of destruction is a destruction of a “symbol,” a building, nobody gets killed in the last scene. The masses approach the armies of the System with no weapons. The armies do not fire on them. Maybe by beheading the monster (the other orgy of blood in the penultimate scene) peace can be made with the rest of the body of the beast.
But the myth of violence remains. The masses do not approach weaponless because they choose to renounce violence, it is only because they lack access. The armies of the System do not hold their fire because of the innocence of the masses, but only because they lack leadership.
If it were not for (overly) bloody massacre that precedes this scene (It is only here that the movie moves from great movie to gory video game.) violent confrontation would have resulted. The huge numbers of the masses would probably have resulted in the deaths of the soldiers, but victory would have been bloody. In the end, violence “ends” because of violence.
It is regrettable that this movie is considered one in the genre with the Matrix trilogy. In the trilogy, the Gospel gradually emerges as the hero first recognizes his power and then relinquishes it as a means of bringing peace. In the final movie, it is the Gospel that reigns. Of course, behind the movies lies the work of a Christian author, (Sophia Stewart) one who knows the Gospel from below, from the slave perspective (her grandmother was a slave) and who sought to tell the Gospel in modern dress. In the end, the authors of V for Vendetta are no less enamored of the saving power of violence than the villains of their movie.