“V for Vendetta” is one of the few movies that, in these days of crowded shelves and almost infinite digital storage, I chose to own a physical copy of. It is beautifully shot, perfectly cast and boldly told. It is that rare thing, a movie that dares to be true to its intent, even at the risk of being unpopular. The result is a cult classic.
Take a look at the trailer below to get a feel for what I mean.
I first saw it in the cinema in 2006 and found it startling and inspiring. At the time I was more transfixed by how well a comic (graphic novel for all you who just groaned) could be brought to the screen rather than by the political message. I saw the anti-fascist stance as obvious and necessary but the idea of fascism gripping the UK so firmly seemed like an exaggeration to make a point.
This year, for Bonfire Night, I decided to do something new. I read the “novelisation” of the movie or, rather, I listened to the audiobook, expertly narrated by Simon Vance.
I’ve always avoided novelisations. The word itself is ugly and the literary snob in me, which is quite happy to watch movies adapted from books, was instinctively scornful of reading novels adapted from movies.
As usual, my literary snob was an idiot. If I had come to this novel without seeing the movie, I would have been praising the quality of the writing and the structure of the story. It’s well-written, faithful to the movie but enhancing it in ways that are appropriate to the novel form. I recommend it to you.
Listening to the audiobook in 2018, twelve years after seeing the movie, Britain as a fascist state no longer felt like an exaggeration to make a point. It felt like a possibility that we are only a few missteps away from. The mechanics of the manipulation of the media, the creation of enemies of the people, the appeal to national pride in a mostly-mythical glorious past, the exploitation of the fear and hatred of the foreign and the different all felt too contemporary to be dismissed.
V, the hero of this story, is not a nice man. Not a man you’d want to make friends with or even spend time with. When I first saw the movie I was horrified by his treatment of Evie, who he shapes into a weapon of sorts.
Now, I begin to understand that there may be times when we all need someone like V to remind us that our governments should be more afraid of us than we are of them.