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.