V for Vendetta
Dystopian futures in society often spring from conflict in society. This often results in a vision of an authoritarian or totalitarian government, and the resulting conflict that the two forms of government cause. The graphic novel V for Vendetta written by Alan Moore is no exception. This novel was also adapted into a movie. In the process of adaptation the directors of the film version attempted to maintain the overall characters and anarchist themes of the graphic novel; however there were inevitably both minor and major differences between the novel and its adaptation to the big screen. The graphic novel V for Vendetta is set in the late 90's (the book was originally written from 1982-1985) in world torn by nuclear war, Britain has been successfully dominated by a fascist party known as Norse fire. Their Leader, Adam Susan, runs England with an iron fist and the assistance of a supercomputer known as Fate, whom he is secretly in love with. The Film adaptation of V for Vendetta, produced by: Larry and Andy Wachowski, is set in the 2020s where Norse fire has taken control of Britain after delivering the cure for a plague that has proved severely lethal to a large portion of the population. America has been reduced to begging for aid, which England staunchly refuses to grant. Adam Sutler rules Norse fire with an iron fist, but the Fate computer is nowhere to be seen. The slight differences between the characters of the novel and the film cause sizeable differences in the story and how it develops.
The main Character of the story, V, is an anarchist with a knack for blowing things up; buildings in particular. He has a set vision of what he believes government should be like, he believes that People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people. (1) And he has a laid out plan for how he goes about achieving the state of anarchy that he wants, a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. And although he has the same key goals in both the novel and the film, there are differences between the original V and the film adaptation of V.
One of the immediate changes made is that the film opens with a recreation and explanation of the Gunpowder Plot perpetrated by Guy Fawkes. The character of V's look, in both book and film, is supposed to be reminiscent of Fawkes, down to the mask he wears being a Guy Fawkes mask, so the sequence is not entirely out of place. Also considering that the movie was made for an American audience, the majority of which no nothing of the story of Guy Fawkes attempting to blow up parliament, this opening provides a better understanding of the connection between V and his Guy Fawkes persona because of their similar interests in blowing up parliament. The problem with this is that V's character in the book is not very Fawkes-like, other than in his explosion of Parliament. In the book, V is an anarchist. He states as much, declaring his love of anarchy in a scene in the novel, which is not included in the movie, where he has a conversation with a statue of the lady Justice. He proceeds to have a full back and forth dialogue between himself and Justice, his former love. This dialogue culminates in Vs revelation "there's someone else now . . . Her name is Anarchy and she has taught me more as a mistress than you ever did!" (Moore 40-41) He proceeds to leave a small package, which appears to be a traditional heart-shaped box of chocolates, at the foot of the statue, which then explodes. The last panel of the page is a close-up of V turning to the "camera", and saying "The flames of freedom. How lovely. How just Ahh, my precious Anarchy (Moore 41). In a series of essays on the adaptation of V for Vendetta to film written Peter Sanderson, Moore states in an interview: I was just using Guy Fawkes as a symbol, without really any references to the historical Guy Fawkes. It was the bonfire night Guy Fawkes I was referencing, with the at the time easily available Guy Fawkes masks. (3) Sanderson than goes on to state that "In Moore's series Fawkes thus becomes a symbol. If the fascists have taken over England, and the government has become the enemy, then Fawkes, the enemy of the government, becomes a freedom fighter. V impersonates a villain of British history, thus taking on the role of the devil, to fight for a noble cause." (3) The film's connecting Fawkes so deliberately to V is thus not something intended by the text. Also, the deletion of the Lady Justice scene from the story withheld two vital bits of information about V form the audience. One being Vs declared love of Anarchy, the other being that "V seems to be arguing that this version of Justice has forfeited his allegiance by becoming linked with totalitarian rule; that is how he justifies blowing up the statue and the Old Bailey."(3) V believes the symbols of the old regime must be torn down and destroyed, as does the system itself.
The main difference, however, between the novel V and the Film adaptation V is the character of V in the film has been turned into a sort of a freedom fighter against a neoconservative British government ,whereas in the book he's actually an anarchist fighting against a British fascist state. Being an anarchist instead of a freedom fighter fighting for democracy are two very different things. Furthermore in the book, V also portrays the traditional stereotype of the classical anarchist as a terrorist. So he's not really a clear-cut "hero". The question of whether he's a hero, anti-hero, villain, or even sane or psychotic is really left up to the reader to decide, whereas in the movie that choice has already been made for the viewer. V's destructive acts are morally ambiguous, and a central theme of the book is the rationalization of atrocities in the name of a higher goal, whether it is stability or freedom.
Another seemingly small change made in the movie from the book is the age of Evey Hammond, played by Natalie Portman in the movie. At the opening of the book, Evey is a 16 year old girl who is about to solicit herself as a prostitute because the income that she makes as a factory worker is to meager to support her and she can think of no other way to make money. She's portrayed as extremely nave, even mildly stupid. She takes the bold step of attempting to become a prostitute, but is extremely clueless on how to go about it, to the point of wincing as she awkwardly solicits a Fingerman right on her first try. The man, with his associates who are also fingermen, attempts to assault Evey, until she is rescued by V, who subdues the men, including killing one with an explosive device, all while quoting Shakespeare's Macbeth. This begins V's process of teaching, torturing, and training Evey, to the point that by the end of the book, she has taken his place willingly, donning the costume and mask on herself, and thus completes the book's statement of V as a symbol or an idea, undying and everlastingly moving through history.
Evey however, rejects V's passion for violence and death, but embraces his cause of anarchy and self-guidance. In the movie, Evey is portrayed as being a few years older than she is in the book. This would put her age somewhere in her early to mid twenties. She works at a television station, and is, while not well off, living well enough to have her own apartment. She leaves her apartment to meet Gordon, a television personality, for a date, in defiance of the curfew that covers London. As opposed to in the book where she leaves her apartment in order to prostitute herself; but like in the book she is stopped by Fingermen, and the scene unfolds much like the scene from the book. The change of Evey's age means that, "Evey is a more adult character now . . . more mature, less vulnerable, and not especially looking for a father figure anymore; she never quite helps V in any premeditated way (until the very end), even working against him at one point in a vain attempt to pry herself out of his clutches," as posted in an essay by Marc Singer (4). Whereas Evey in the book is vulnerable, and a mess psychologically, which is not helped by Vs actions and tactics throughout the story. She is looking for guidance; Evey in the movie is going along just to get along. As Singer says, "that greater confidence means Evey can reject V in no uncertain terms after his worst crimes are revealed. This is more morally palatable for us and better for Evey, but it's worse for the plot as it means she never sticks around to learn the tricks of V's trade, or to denounce his methods once she does." (4) It is implied throughout the film, particularly in one of the ending scenes, that Evey loves V in a romantic way, one which is less mixed-up with abandonment and father issues. We cannot be sure whether the filmmakers included that particular scene because they saw it as a necessary addition to the work, or because of the appeal that the emotion of love has to the American people. That decision, as the decision about Vs sanity, will remain the viewers choice.
Another character that reveals to have been slightly changed in the transition from print to screen is Finch. Finch is a detective heading the case involving the charges against Codename V. He's tasked with stopping the madman from bombing more of London, prefferebly before the next fifth of November come around. On which, V has announced his plans to blow up the building of parliament. In the book, Finch is obsessed with doing anything he can in order to stop the terrorist. He feels the need to get inside Vs mind, to be able to think like V in order to stop him. Nearly disgraced by his failings to stop V, Finch takes LSD, which was given to V at the Larkhill center, in order to get into the terrorist's state of mind. Although Finch is not a supporter of the drug, he does come to a realization of freedom and fearlessness very similar to the night when V himself escaped from the Larkhill facility. The film shows much more of Finch than the novel and adds a huge government cover-up, allowing Finch to realize how malicious the government that he so faithfully works for is. While Moore's Finch seems hesitant about a final confrontation with V, shooting him immediately upon sight and therein causing Vs death, the film version of Finch forces a very typical choice in movies: Stop the terrorist, whom he feels is actually doing what is right, or ignore his duty to his government and allow for revolution. And in the film he chooses the latter option, lowering his gun in surrender and allowing Evey to set the train from the station on the way to parliament.
The next comparison of characters from the novel to the movie is not one person but multiple people, all of them to be precise. The group of people that I am referring to is the general public of the novel versus the general public of the film. Like Evey, the general public in the film are much more primed for change and political action that they are in the novel. It is apparent that the novel only implies an eventual uprising against fascism. It does not go so far as to show it happening. The film accomplishes this task in the final scene of the movie in which the people march through the city, fully cloaked in their Codename V outfits and masks.
In presenting V with a ready and willing follower, Evey, and a general populace ready to be turned into a movement, the film changes the perspective of the population from a scared group of individuals to a united whole that is just waiting on its opportunity to make a move. The author, Alan Moore, is unhappy with many of the ways in which the film was altered from the novel, and here Moore may have a point. If the novel is about the responsibility that people have for their own freedom or oppression, then the film certainly does alter the print narrative. In Moore's England, the people choose fascism and order over liberty and uncertainty. In the movie adaptation, they are tricked into doing so. Does this let the people off of the hook? Possibly. Does it make change too easy? Again, this is a possibility and another decision that is up to the reader of the novel or the viewer of the film. The fact remains that , lied to or not, in both book and movie people are willing to believe politicians who tell them that: various other groups, such as homosexuals, muslims, and other outsiders, are responsible for whatever is wrong in their life. Who also tell them, that protection from such groups can be bought for a little freedom, this is an example of how the fascist government uses xenophobia and fear to extract any little bit of power that the people may possess. More significantly, both book and film ultimately rest on the hope that the people will eventually come to the realization that they need to, and have the ability to change their situation through presenting a united revolution. While the author of the book may be less than optimistic about the possibility of a popular revolt, his hero, like any good 19th century anarchist, clearly and confidently hangs onto a belief in the people's will to freedom and the capacity for the people to unleash that will. The directors of the film are willing to show V's hopes fulfilled, and while the book does not show this, the hope that it will happen still remains; as the book leaves the reader with an open ending in which anything could happen.
These seemingly small changes effect the story in large ways, and there are many changes, involving the setting, the time period, and the background story, which I have chosen to leave out of this essay as they were not directly relevant to my topic. They do however shape the story and all of the characters in it. There are many reasons why these changes may have taken place, a few being that he target audiences of the book and film are slightly different, and the time in which each were written are of definite influence. The book is about the triumph of anarchy over oppressive order. The film is about the power of the people's voice over the voice of the few in power, which is exemplified by one of the novels most famous quotes, "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." In that one quote V practically summarizes all of his political views to the reader. In a sense V is like an author himself, creating a narrative of the liberation of the people from a government regime that has stifled all culture, imagination, and hope of its people.
1) Moore, Alan. V for Vendetta. New York, NY: DC Comics, 1990. Print.
2) McTeigue, James, Dir. V for Vendetta. Dir. James McTeigue." Warner Bros.: 2006, Film.
3) Sanderson, Peter. "Comics in Context: All about Evey." notthebeastmaster.typepad.com. Peter Sanderson, 27 Mar 2006. Web. 8 Dec 2010. .
4) Wisse, Martin. "V and Virtuality." White Rose. Martin Wissse, 21 Mar 2006. Web. 8 Dec 2010. .