Directors Intention: The power ideas hold and their ability to shape society
“We are told to remember the idea, not the man because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world” – Evey Hammond. In the critically acclaimed dystopian film, “V for Vendetta” directed by James McTeigue an idea created 400 years ago by Guy Fawkes inspires “V”. V pursues a very similar path to Guy Fawkes in which he attempts to overthrow the oppressive government by bombing London’s Parliament building. He rebels against the oppression with the intention of influencing society to stand up. Through the director’s use of symbolism, montage, and sound the power of ideas and their ability to shape society are communicated to the audience. This allows the audience to reflect on our society today. Relating V to the likes of Martin Luther King Jr and John F. Kennedy who simply wanted their ideas to be embedded in people’s minds opposed to their physical appearance.
Through sound and symbolism in “the domino scene” V’s master plan is cleverly portrayed. The scene begins with V placing his first domino, while in parallel his masks are delivered around the city. The director’s intention is to symbolise the first stage of V’s plan, empowering the people to rise up and unite by wearing his mask. As the scene continues we see V placing more dominoes one after another, and we hear Finch say, “it was as if I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events”. In juxtaposition with Finch’s dialogue the intention of V placing the dominoes down; is to represent what has happened to motivate V and what is going to happen in order to overthrow the oppressive government.
Once V sets up his “masterplan”, we hear finch say, “All V needs to do is keep his plan”, the music fades out as he says, “and then”. This creates a split second of silence before he flicks over the first domino commencing his plan. Becoming the moment in which the viewer gains momentum that something is about to happen, sparking suspense and curiosity. As V flicks over the first domino, the diegetic sound is emphasised. We hear a sharp echo alongside the music gaining momentum again. Once the first domino is pushed they all begin to fall, the directors intention is to symbolise the series of events that virtually become impossible to stop. In parallel with the emphasised diegetic sound, the viewers position is furthered to understand how V’s idea has now been turned in to an action. Suggesting to the viewer that when an idea is heavily believed in and gains the majorities momentum, the movement becomes essentially impossible to stop. Strengthening Finch’s dialogue when he talks about the “one long chain of events”. The directors purpose is to show how one domino represents an individual, and as each individual partakes this enlarges the pattern and effect on society. The director goes on to use heavy montage where the scene goes back and forth between Brixton riot footage and the dominoes falling in a perfect sequence. As we hear the dominoes falling, we hear the yelling of people rioting but also the music which sounds like a heartbeat. All these sounds create even more suspense for the viewer as we realise this may take place later on in the movie. The director prompts the viewer to link the humane traits of yelling and the music’s beat of a heartbeat to our society. That V’s masterplan represented by dominoes is no different to protests we know of. The women’s suffrage movement implemented positive change in the world just as V implemented changed in London. Both Kate Shepard and V began with an idea, which turned in to a plan which eventually attracted people’s support turning in to a movement. For the position of the viewer the montage serves as the action part of V’s plan. The director enforces that a movement has begun, and as Finch said “one long chain of events” will lead to V’s essential goal of overthrowing the oppressive government. The director’s intentions is to also prove V’s influence on the people, that they must riot and challenge the government otherwise they will never attain freedom. The position of the viewer is enhanced through this to realise that if you do not stand up for what is right, you may risk being silenced forever. Once the dominoes have fallen their outcome form the shape of a V. The director emphasising to the viewer again how perfect V’s masterplan really is. The V pattern the dominoes hold shows the symbol of rebellion growing stronger, and although it is just a symbol it now holds power in the people, as they believe in what it stands for. Similar to the swastika, a symbol of the Nazi Party which succesfully held power in the German people for a very long time. This symbol strengthens the director’s purpose of V’s initial plan as it becomes a symbol of the uprising, the people rebelling against London’s oppressive government, breaking free from the fear installed in them. Through the elements of montage, symbolism and sound it enhances our understanding as the viewer. That when the idea of a symbol is believed in by people, it gains power and becomes a force. Lastly the “V” is shown with a circle around it, the director symbolising that V began the revolution however now his idea has spread amongst the people. As the montage’s movement reaches the last domino we hear the same sharp echo of the domino falling and the music softens. As V picks up the last domino the position of the viewer can perceive it as V. It symbolises that if he is still standing in the end, something will remain of the world that he is trying to eliminate. Therefore the change will be incomplete, later in the film he explains this to Evey in terms of the necessity of his own death. As the music softens and V holds the last domino, the position of the viewer loses the momentum gained from the montage and instead feels elements of sadness. Because V knows he has to die in order to implement change, and for the viewer this isn’t necessarily an outcome wanted. It is likely the position of the viewer has come to see V as a hero, in enforcing such a positive yet selfless change within London. For the viewer to know V feels he must die, we feel as if we owe him for his selfless act. However, the position of the viewer can come to the realisation that if an individual believes so deeply in an ideology that he or she is willing to die for it then they will always win.
The Fight scene is another pivotal moment in the film, where McTeigues intentions are emphasised through symbolism and sound. The diegetic sound of the chancellors voice is affirmed at the start of the scene. This gives the viewer the impression of how much authority and power the chancellor withholds. The viewer questioning whether V’s plan will be successful as the chancellor proves his dominance and how strongly he believes in his ideology. “My fellow Englishmen: tonight our country… faces a grave and terrible threat. This violent and unparalleled assault on our security will not go undefended… or unpunished. Our enemy is an insidious one, seeking to divide us and destroy the very foundation of our great nation …we must remain united… that justice will be swift, it will be righteous, and it will be without mercy.” The Chancellor’s speech alludes to the likes of Adolf Hitler. The position of the viewer can relate the effects that both Hitler and the Chancellor have had on their societies. Adolf Hitler said, “It is not the truth that matters, but the victory”, emphasising it doesn’t matter whether the laws or ideologies are corrupt, if it manages to have power over the people then that is the victory. Which is a dangerous example of how if an idea can be believed in so strongly, it can gain power and control however for the wrong reasons. This quote can be compared with the Chancellors dialogue as he tries to persuade the London citizens to support his perspective on V as “Our enemy is an insidious one, seeking to divide us and destroy the very foundation of our great nation”. The position of the viewer realises V and the chancellor both have the capability to re-shape society through the power of their ideas. The chancellor managed to re-shape society through his idea which gained power and control over the citizens. However, this reiterates the danger and capability of when an idea can become so strongly believed in it can easily gain momentum. When there is a more dominant focus on power over the people rather than the truth or ideology as seen with the Chancellor this is what forms a totalitarian state or hierarchy. The main determining factor for the viewer of what divides V and the Chancellor is that V intends to enforce the truth and fight for what is right opposed to wanting power and control over the citizens of London. The viewer then sees the shot change to men dragging a body down the stairs, the diegetic sound being emphasised as his feet scrape the ground step by step. The position of the viewer is enhanced through these elements, as the body is unknown therefore creating a moment of suspense. The music slowly builds to the point where the masked man is dropped to his knees. V says, “I want to see his face” the music builds right up fully engaging the viewer until a split second of silence and the Chancellor is revealed. The director wants the position of the viewer to understand how ironic the chancellors character is. In his speech he said, “it will be without mercy”, yet the chancellor is revealed on his knees begging, crying and fearful in fact begging for V’s mercy. This moment in the scene is pivotal for both V and the viewer. The chancellors dialogue from his speech are the words that have fueled V’s plan from the start, which yet again proves the irony displayed cleverly by the director. When V says, “I want to see his face” and the chancellor is revealed, the viewers understanding is enhanced. The viewer is exposed to the first example of Vs idea having the power to make change. This motivates the position of the viewer to believe in V and his plan, eliminating any sense of uncertainty that the viewer most likely held after realising the chancellors superiority from his dialogue. The director evidently uses the symbol V all throughout the film as a recurring motif. The director gives V his name due to his cell number at Larkhill which was number 5, V symbolising the roman numeral for 5. The director then goes on to strengthen his purpose of giving V his name. He links V’s intentions of bombing London parliament building on the 5th of November the same day as Guyfawkes did. Guyfawkes wanted to bomb and destroy the London Houses of Parliament. This was because Catholics were being oppressed through fear and control by the King and just as the citizens of London are by Chancellor Adam Sutler and the Norsefire Government. However this recurring motif doesn’t stop here, the position of the viewer goes on to see the letter V even more. V placed upside down with a circle represents the Anarchy sign which we go on to see as the dominoes path is pursued. When both V and Evey break free from imprisonment we witness their arms raised to the sky in the shape of a V, the director emphasising the victory. V for victory, the directors intention to prove this is the symbol of a vendetta. In the fight scene, the director utilises the symbol V to enhance the position of the viewer shown when V fights back. Firstly we see it on the chancellors forehead a gash the symbol of a V. This symbolises V’s mark, the chancellor representing another one of V’s dominoes to fall over. Then as he lifts his knives out his pockets we see them make a V shape before rotating 5 times. Towards the end of the scene V falls against the wall injured, leaving blood behind in the form of a V. The director has cleverly involved the symbol V
mainly throughout this pivotal scene as a way to enhance the position of the viewer even more so. It allows the viewer to come to a realization point of how logically put together V’s plan is. The position of the viewer gains an understanding of how V’s torturous experience at Larkhill where he was imprisoned in cell number 5 (V), has shaped the person he is and motivated his actions to this point. Because of his experiences, this has motivated V to believe so strongly in an ideology, and pursue it.
In “V for Vendetta”, directed by James McTeigue, his utilisation of symbolism, montage and sound express the power of ideas and their ability to shape society. Through these cinematography techniques the directors purpose and the position of the viewer was well communicated. The directors purpose was to enhance the viewers understandings and to also make them feel emotional connections in terms of societal issues today. V said, “Behind this mask, there is more than flesh, behind this mask there is an idea Mr Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof”. It was clear V’s bulletproof idea was successful in being supported by the oppressed citizens of London. This was most evident in the Domino Scene as the viewer witnessed the downfall of the government as the citizens rised up. In parallel with the fight scene which saw the uprising of V’s final plan. These two scenes worked hand in hand to express the director’s message. It enhanced my position as the viewer and gave me hope in the power of ideas and how I can re-shape any part of my life if I believe in an idea enough to do so.