Existential Themes in “V for Vendetta”

Based on a comic series by Alan Moore, V for Vendetta chronicles the battle between a Fascist regime and a seemingly anarchist individual who draws inspiration from the likes of Guy Fawkes and Dr. John Faust. Though anarchism is a recurring theme throughout the movie, the foundations of the comic book and the movie are very much existential in nature. Existential themes such as the dark night of the soul and the conflict between free will and responsibility can be found prominently in the movie (Delany 2006).
At a superficial level, the protagonist’s fanatic love for the letter V, his liking of daggers and knives and the devilish Guy Fawkes mask create an image of eccentricity around him. However, when viewed from a broader perspective, these seemingly eccentric characteristics appear to be the consequences of some of the most inhumane and barbaric experiences. Though the movie does not shed any light on the past life of the protagonist, his transition from an ordinary man into an almost maniacal anarchist occurs during his stay in a concentration camp. This phase represents the dark night of the soul where his idealist vision of a utopian world is shattered and he undergoes immense disillusionment. This is the most disturbing as well as the most definitive period of the hero’s life (Delany 2006).

The most prominent characteristic of this phase is that, like all existential heroes such as Buddha, Galileo Galilei, and Martin Luther King Jr., the protagonist remains unnaturally quiet during his attempt to comprehend the happenings around him. Within the realms of fictional literature, the struggle and silence of V come very close to the transition of John Galt in the epic novel, Atlas Shrugged. When V first enters the concentration camp, he is plagued with questions about the purpose of the camp and the unquestionable power of those in command of the camp. However, he is tormented by the willingness with which the inmates give up their lives without asking a question as well as with the negligence shown by the doctor towards the deaths of the inmates.
After trying to comprehend the world around him, he finally comes to the conclusion that the world is no longer one of his dreams. The realization that he can either choose to perish in silence like others or choose to revolt against the herd dawns upon him. The scene where he stands naked against the flames engulfing the camp marks the end of the dark night and his entry into the fight between authenticity and inauthenticity as well as the fight between the ideas of the individual against the mentality of the herd. The suffering undergone gives him calm and almost cold composure displayed in the future, especially while killing his offenders. This phase also marks the beginning of a long period of self-enforced solitude which ends only when Evey Hammond enters his life (Delany 2006).

Evey too is made to undergo a simulated version of the dark night when V subjects her to the agony of losing freedom though she is allowed to draw inspiration from the story of Valerie. By the end of this phase, Evey is able to understand the suffering of V but is still unable to digest the violence of his methods. V, on the other hand, remains impatient in his thinking. This impatience is visible in his desire to erase everything belonging to the past. The scene where he plans to use a beautiful antique train car to blast the Whitehall subtly refers to this innate hatred for everything belonging to the past. This provides an important insight into the psychology of the heroes. Every hero or revolutionary, whether real or fictional, proposes a new system in exchange for an old system and does not believe in repairing the existing system. The most interesting aspect of the movie is that it makes no effort to hide the negative consequences of the anarchist approach of V and portrays him as being both the hero as well as the terrorist adding an absurdist touch to the story (Delany 2006).

 

Works Cited
Delany, Samuel. “V for Vendetta.” The Pinocchio Theory. 09 Apr. 2006. 28 Jul. 2011.

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