Now that I’m sitting back behind this desk full-time again, I hope to catch up on the backlog of stuff I’ve built up to share. I have a whole heap of book and film recommendations that I want to add to the already substantial page of book and film recommendations that you can find here.
This week, a post that’s been sitting on my desktop unfinished for 6 months and 1 week. How can I be so precise about the date? Because I watched the 4k restoration of the movie on the day UK cinemas closed back in November last year – masked up for literally the final showing before the multiplexes shut their doors. Roll on next week when, hopefully, they’ll be opening up again.
If you’ve read any of my recent posts about AUTUMN: DAWN (and if you read the bonus material that’ll accompany the limited-edition hardcover), then you’ll know that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how our appreciation of things we’ve watched and read can change according to our current circumstances. I seem to be making a lot of STAR WARS comparisons at the moment, and this reminds me of my reaction to THE PHANTOM MENACE. Back on opening night in 1999, I was blown away. A new STAR WARS movie! It didn’t seem real, and I loved every second of it. But as time went by and I watched the film a few more times, I started to think that, actually, it wasn’t that good. Fast-forward to 2015 when I did a complete re-watch of the films in anticipation of THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I absolutely HATED the prequels. And now here we are, post-Disney, and yet again they’re being reappraised.
I guess my point is this: your engagement with a film or book is inevitably shaped by your life at that moment in time. Case in point, V FOR VENDETTA. I enjoyed the film a lot when I first saw it in 2005. Fifteen years later, it blew me away.
In a future British tyranny, a shadowy freedom fighter, known only by the alias of “V”, plots to overthrow it with the help of a young woman.
“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore, V FOR VENDETTA has a phenomenal cast and a wealth of talent behind the cameras. Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Stephen Rea and Hugo Weaving (who delivers a superb performance despite the fact we never see his face) are consistently strong throughout, working from a script by the Wachowskis (the MATRIX trilogy). The film looks great, adapting David Lloyd’s graphic novel artwork sensitively. It doesn’t feel like your typical comic book movie (because it isn’t) – the film feels remarkably British, like a big budget TV crime show at times, crossed with Michael Radford’s adaptation of 1984. It’s a credit to the adaptation that even the more fantastical elements of the story feel grounded and plausible.
I make a point of not discussing politics in public. I use social media to tell people about my books, and I use my books to tell stories – my political views have little bearing on either of these things. The levels of intolerance on display right now make it particularly difficult to have sensible conversations about your political views with people who oppose them – it’s becoming as impossible to discuss objectively as religion. Everybody seems to think they’re right and many take it as a personal affront if you dare suggest there might be another point of view. Society feels increasingly polarised, to the point where I wonder if the divisions can actually be healed, or whether these splits are only going to deepen. Hey… that would make an epic six book horror series, don’t you think?!
Regardless of where your loyalties lie, I think the current political environment contributed enormously to the impact V FOR VENDETTA had on me this time around. That, coupled with the fact the film includes references to an avian flu pandemic and I was watching on the eve of the second UK coronavirus lockdown made the story feel uncomfortably close to home. This is a story about the power of the state and the struggle for freedom, and it takes many cues from Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. V’s mask, styled on Fawkes and adopted by Anonymous and other groups, has become something of a resistance brand since the film’s release, and I guess that, more than a decade later, has added another layer to the relevance of the story.
At its heart, V FOR VENDETTA is a superb film with themes which resonate louder today than ever. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend you put that right. If you have seen it, I recommend you watch it again and see if it has the same impact on you as it did on me.