I loathed this film. I need you to know that before I go any further. If you enjoyed it, I'm glad your money wasn't wasted, and ask that you turn back now. I haven't hated a film this much in a long time.
Here's why: They had me-- I was along for the ride, quite happily, until about halfway through. Sure, I had some philosophical differences with the writers, but I could appreciate the story of a young woman in a society that forces everyone to compromise their values and turn a blind eye. The journey of her awakening, of her learning that she doesn't have to be helpless, seemed uplifting to me. I liked that the movie addressed the religious tensions in this country, as well as the issue of gay rights.
So, what went wrong?
About halfway through the film, Natalie Portman's character, Evie Hammond, is captured by the totalitarian government and imprisoned. She is starved, tortured and abused-- her only hope comes from a series of 'letters' she receives through a crack in the wall. These letters, written on toilet paper, tell the story of an actress imprisoned for being a lesbian. It is this story that gives Evie hope, and makes her unafraid to face her own death.
All wonderfully told, directed well. Until it is revealed that Evie has never been in a government prison at all-- that, instead, she has been victimized by the story's "hero", who simulated his own experience for her as a sort of 'trial by fire'.
I have never seen anyone kill a narrative so effectively in so little time. While 'V' (our supposed hero) insisted that Evie learned important lessons in that little play, the opposite was true. The totalitarian state and 'V' became one and the same, each no better than the other. He didn't teach Evie anything-- he abused her, nigh-on brainwashed her, and then claimed the experience made her stronger. Any meaning she'd gleaned, any strength she'd gained through that ordeal was lost the moment it was revealed for what it was: a very sick man's step in the cycle of abuse. The state abused it's power and abused V-- he responded by abusing Evie. Any high ground he had, any claims to 'liberty' and 'justice' were lost then, because he chose to punish Evie for existing in that society. He perpetuated both her oppression, and his own.
That could have been salvaged, if Evie had created a middle ground between the government and V's ruthless actions. Instead, she folded under his pressure, and his conditioning succeeded. I find no meaning in that, save the implication that for every terrible madman out there, there's always someone worse.
I can't express to you how much I hated this film. I hated its self-righteousness, it's assumption that just because V had suffered that he had a right to judge everyone else. I hated that they used gay-rights issues and linked them to that sort of violent 'solution'. Because, let me tell you, I am afraid, sometimes, of where this country is going. I'm afraid of South Dakota's attempts to ban abortion, I'm afraid of Bush and his 'marriage protection' sing-song, and I'm afraid of the increasing sentiment that we must attack preemptively. But in this movie, no one was right-- the government was a vicious machine bent on subjugation, but V was a victim bent on lashing out at everyone, deserving or not.
Change is not about adopting your enemy's tactics just so you can win. It is not about victory at any cost-- the cost of such victory is becoming your enemy. Becoming worse. Blowing up buildings, symbols, is not the answer. Lashing out aimlessly isn't the answer. The answer is accountability, for our leaders and for ourselves.
This film wasn't about hope. It was about the endless cycle of abuse, hence the title of this rant.
I hope I haven't offended anyone, but I really needed to get this off my chest. The movie was right about one thing-- symbols and stories are powerful. That's why we have to examine them, deconstruct them, and always question the motives of the story-teller.
Thanks for your time. ^__^