Saturday, January 13, 2007


The Man in the Mask......

I’m not normally one for Batman type comic book action movies. I did, however, enjoy ‘V for Vendetta’ on video yesterday, based on an old comic book.

It was disturbing as it was set in a futuristic Nazi Britain. With concentration camps, a fuhrer, the cross of St George in red with a black background, uniforms and all the other paraphernalia. It was also set in a modern context, with Muslims replacing Jews. The poisoning of London’s water supply by the fascists (for which they blamed the terrorists) was the Reichstag fire which consolidated their power. References were made to the Iraq war and protests.

However, it is highly unlikely that fascism would take on its classic form were it to come into power. It would be far more subtle. Britain is not a fascist State at present, but the increasing surveillance we live under and the added powers given to the State do pose cause for concern to anyone who cherishes liberty.

The superhero goes simply by the name of ‘V’. He wears a Guy Fawkes mask to cover his burns. His aim is to get revenge on the government who were responsible. One by one he kills party members, gaining support among the population to eventually topple the regime by blowing up parliament. His supporters show their solidarity by donning a mask to match.

What makes it most interesting, in my view, is the relationship between him and his lover. Young Evey never completely knows the man who has taken her under his wing. This is symbolised most obviously by the mask, which he never removes due to his disfigurations. But the mask symbol goes way back into ancient mythology. The marriage of Eros and Psyche springs to mind most readily, where the Olympian God would not show his face to his mortal wife. Psyche is in turns enraptured by him then frightened of what he might do. His distance does not allow her to fully know him.

The comic-book love affair depicted in the film is in part a retelling of this ancient myth with its many layers. To an extent we all wear a mask, as Carl Jung was keen to stress. The persona we show to others does not tell everything about us. This is why the mask has long been used to symbolise the theatre. But what kind of lover is Eros, or Mr V? What kind of a man keeps himself from a woman in this way, and what kind of woman loves such a man? The answers can be many. The masked man is more of an evocative symbol than ‘the masked woman’, which should tell us something about sexual roles and behaviour. Most important is the fact that we can never completely know another person. After even many years together a woman may not completely know her husband, and vice versa.

Not knowing whether the masked man is a hero or villian (due to his unpredictable nature and the part of himself he deliberately keeps back) is part of his allure.

5 comments:

a very public sociologist said...

I haven't seen this film yet, but by the sounds of it the director/writer has something for the 'propaganda of the deed'.

CrackerLilo said...

I thought I was the only one who saw a warped romance, My Fair Lady with violence, in V for Vendetta.

Gods, I love that movie. (Even though Natalie Portman with her head shaved just does not have that "been to hell and back in prison" look they were trying for.) The letter from Valerie makes me cry and fires me up, both.

Liz said...

Public sociologist - I think the writer of the original comic book was some kind of anarchist. I heard the comic was more openly anarchist than the movie, where the directors had toned them down a bit.

Glad to see you share my taste in movies, crackerlilo. Perhaps we both have an insight about the warped romance theme! The letter from Valerie made me nearly cry too. I see what you mean about Natalie Portman though - Sinead O Connor springs to mind if anything!

Gracchi said...

Interesting idea- I've been fascinated for a long time by the myth of Cupid and Psyche its a very interesting story from all sorts of perspectives lots of which you've outlined here. I think you are right the other thing I might add is that Cupid and Psyche is a myth about accepting risk and if you think about it the consequences of accepting that risk (in an age before knowledge of STDs and effective contraception) lay with the woman. Psyche would become pregnant and could be left with a kid who wasn't her own- something that could change her life and she is asked to do that by a man whose face she can't see and who rejects her because she uses a lamp. Its a fascinating set of ideas- great post sorry I've rambled on enough here.

AN said...

I saw this film in a hotel in oslo just befor Xmas, while I was over there working, and although I agree with a lot of what you say about it, I just thouught it failed on the level of not being very well acted or entertaining enough to carry off the ideas.