V for Vendetta

Audiovisual Principles and Practices

V for Vendetta is a 2006 action thriller film written and directed by the Wachowskis. It follows the character V and is set in a dystopian London in the late 2020s. After a prolonged conflict, The United Kingdom remains the only stable country but is under fascist regime. Society is heavily oppressed and many “undesirables” (such as homosexuals and muslims) are imprisoned in concentration camps. The film follows V and his fight to overthrow the government and reinstate freedom of speech.

In one scene, V hijacks a television studio and broadcasts a pre-recorded speech to the British public. In this speech, V urges the public to fight back against their oppressive rulers. Throughout the film, V’s goal is to overthrow the current rulers of the country; he sends messages to the government via actions such as blowing up the old bailey, with his intention being to blow up parliament on November the fifth, fulfilling the aim of his hero, Guy Fawkes.

V’s hero is Guy Fawkes; he has modeled his look on his hero.

Sporting an outfit and hairstyle that is very reminiscent of the period. He also wears a Guy Fawkes mask (left image, below), it is originally thought that he does this to protect his identity but it is later revealed that his face is burned and he wears the mask to cover it. However, he also uses the mask as a symbol. Seeing as how it’s a Guy Fawkes mask, it shows his feelings towards the rulers and his intentions. Since the film’s release, the mask has become a symbol of rebellion and freedom, even being used by the “Hacktavist” group Anonymous as a logo, as well as the mask they wear to hide their identities when they’re in public (right image, below).

V for Vendetta Masks

In the scene, V’s footage is of him at a desk, in front of a red curtain. In the lower right hand corner of the screen, there is “V TV”. The “V” is not only his name but, in the way it’s been styled, it is also V’s emblem or symbol. It also takes over the screen once V’s speech ends, being the sole focus of the screen, the Logo itself is red on a black background, making the V more prominent and makes it stand out more.

V speaks with a fairly well-spoken, well-enunciated English accent, arguably bordering on “Posh”, this along with his fairly impressive vocabulary makes his use of the word “Bloke” feel very out of character. However, he is addressing the British public and would probably be trying to connect with them. He even says “I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine – the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke.” (V for Vendetta – 2006), twice in this speech V uses language that could imply that he is trying to build a connection with the public, to make them feel as though he is one of them. When he says “I do, like many of you”, he implies that there is a similarity between himself and those he is addressing, forming a connection between him and his audience. He follows up with “I enjoy them as much as any bloke”, further reemphasising the fact that he’s just like the rest of us, plus, in using the word “bloke”, he is trying to also act like everyone else. It could be argued that this is similar to when people attempt the “Good cop/bad cop routine”, in which the “good cop” tries to befriend and connect with the criminal after “bad cop” has weakened them. In this case, the “Bad cop” would be the “Adam Sutler” V mentioned. Sutler (Played by John Hurt, pictured at the top of the page) is the villain of the film and is the oppressive ruler of Britain. However, in this instance, the good cop and the bad cop are not working together.

V broadcasts his speech to the entire country, hijacking not only homeowners TV sets, but also large screens around London. In the shot that shows V’s speech being shown on the large screen, we can see a message underneath telling the public that a curfew is in effect. In the image below, this shows us that those in charge are strict and that the public don’t have that much freedom in their lives.

V for Vendetta poster

Throughout the scene, we are shown the “audience”, the British public. It ranges from elderly people in a home, to men in a pub and families sitting at home. We are shown that they are stopping what they were doing to pay attention to this speech, this shows us that V’s speech as managed to succeed it gaining the attention of the public. The scene also seems to use angles to gain a point of view feeling. For example, when the speech is being shown on the large screen, we are always looking up at it as if we ourselves were on the streets looking up at the screen, but it could also be done to metaphorically make us “Look up” to this inspirational figure as the leader of a potential revolution.

According to the book Analysing Media Texts, “Mise-en-scène encompasses the use of lighting and colour, costumes, décor and props, performance and acting style, the spatial organisation of actors and objects and their relationship to one another.” (Analysing Media Texts, Gillespie and Toynbee, 2006) and that “It is difficult not to consider framing, camera movement and cinematographic decisions at the same time.” when we take this into consideration and look at the Mise-en-scène of the scene, we notice that everything that is build by the government and honours them – their own offices or the retirement home (first image below) for example – is very neat, clean and precise with everything in it’s place and symmetrical, where as other places, such as the family’s home (second image below) is slightly more messy and less neat, but still very tidy. This tells us that those in power have an image they wish to project by keeping everything neat, clean in in “Smart” colours, such as white, whereas normal families haven not changed much. This could be because the government would want to keep people in control and if the places were more “friendly” people might get inspired to act up a bit more. The cold neatness of the government facilities might also be likened to a prison. They all have bland colours and everything is neat and in it’s place, not letting off a feeling of freedom, but rather making those inside feel trapped, forcing them to behave.

retirement homeV-family

The whole scene feels very neat. Even in the family home, all camera angles and movements are all tightly controlled and smooth moving as oppose to abstract angles and “Shaky cam”. There might be no real reason behind this other than the cinematographer/directors felt it worked, but it could also be reflective of how calm the situation is. There are guards and officials working hard to break in and stop V from sending out his message, but even they are moving slowly and taking the situation rather well, but everyone else, the general public, are completely taken in by V and his speech, clinging on his every word.

The whole speech is about how people should rise up against oppression and stand up to their rulers, showing that V, and the film, holds some values quite dear, such as freedom of speech, liberty and lack of censorship, etc.. V’s attempts to complete Guy Fawkes’ mission to blow up parliament shows us that his belief that the government needs to change is very strong, so much so that he’s willing to kill to achieve it. He also (In part due to this scene and speech) manages to convince the British public to join him in his revolution, getting them to form together as a mob, all wearing their own Guy Fawkes masks and hats to join together in the fight against the leaders. They march through London to witness the destruction of parliament together. Once they witness the houses of parliament’s destruction, they all remove their hats and masks, signifying their own individuality.