The film V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue is a chilling dystopian film set in England on the 5th of November 1997. The films follows Evey Hammond a young woman living under an authoritarianism government in England that strips all civil liberties from its citizens. This gives the government full control over their lives, imposing country-wide curfews and constantly monitoring the lives of its citizens. From the beginning of the film, the controlling totalitarianism nature of the government is clear to viewers. This is one of McTeigue main focus in the film, successfully utilizing cinematography techniques to encapture the audience into the dystopian interpretation of what could happen to our society in the future. On the night of November 5th Evey Hammond encounters three government agents while she is out past curfew, they plan to make her pay for being out late. It is here when we first met V a masked figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. He rescues Evey and continues with his extreme plan to blow up the house of representatives. We later learn that V is vigilante fighting against the government’s extreme oppression of citizens, his aim being the destruction of the current government. V blames the government along with the complacency of the countries citizens for the extreme fascist regime gaining and continuing in power. He hopes that his acts of extreme violence towards the government will be the catalyst the citizens of England need to overthrow the government. The plot follows Evey and V as they get to know and understand one another, in the dystopian world. V’s ultimate aim is ending the fascist regime and giving citizens their rights back. McTeigue uses a range of cinematography techniques such as lighting, dialogue, sound, camera shot’s music, editing, movement, and montage to engage the audience and portray properly the passion that V has for righting a society he believes is wrong and corrupt. The director allows the viewers to see how one person’s opinions and actions can cause a massive change in a society. “We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world”. This quote sums up the director’s intention throughout the film, one idea put into action can change society for the better. McTeigue successfully uses these cinematography techniques to portray this idea to the viewers that V’s opinion did spur the citizens into action. The idea of control and ideas creating change in the world can be seen in our current world, with many movements nowadays fighting for more women’s rights and equality in countries that are still limiting women’s rights to things such as work and abortion. These issues are very topical currently, and are an example of one person or one group’s idea spurring the citizens of the world into actions for the equality as movements for equality can be seen worldwide now. Two scenes that show the depths of McTeigue cinematography techniques is the domino scene and the final fight scene. I will analysis both of these scenes and discuss the techniques used and what impact they had on the viewers and how they reveal the plot to the audience.
The domino scene is an incredibly powerful scene for viewers in order to allow them to understand the entirety of V’s plan for destroying the government. The director’s use of montage throughout the scene gives a sense of unease to the viewers, the constant cutting of scenes, coming back to V stacking the dominos gives a hint that something big is coming, foreshadowing the upcoming events. It is commonly known that dominions take a while to stack but can fall down within a few seconds. I believe the director’s purpose of using the dominos in the scene was to make viewers realise how much effort V has put into his plan to overthrow the government, and if it all goes according to plan the government should crumble very quickly. The use of the dominos coupled with the non-diegetic orchestral music that varies in volume between loud and soft to match the mood of the scene further creates a feeling of anticipation that something big is building. The montage begins with an over the shoulder shot of a little girl spray painting a V onto a government propaganda poster, this shot takes us into the shoes of Evey and allows us to see what she sees. The use of vandalism the little girl is doing in the shot shows the start of the rebellion that is brewing in England. The music creates a sense of tension that the government is struggling to retain control over its citizens. The director used a little girl to portray the countries lack of control because if someone as little and innocent as her is supporting V it makes viewers assume that majority of citizens will also follow V in his rebellion.The director cuts to a close-up shot of the high chancellor, Adam Sutler voicing over the music his concerns for the upcoming November 5th and V’s proposed attack. His close up shot is cut with other shots of his council. The shots of the other men being medium shots looking up at him. These men are lighted up with a high key spotlight showing just their faces in an otherwise dark room. This use of lighting makes the viewers feel as if the council are being interrogated by the high chancellor, as a spotlight is often used when interrogating criminals in movies and TV. The directors use of lighting and camera shots show that the high chancellor is struggling to retain power with V’s upcoming threat and is turning to interrogating and scaring his staff into submission in hopes of beating V. The use of camera angles makes the viewers see the chancellor as the powerful leader he presents to society by using low angle shots to make him seem high and powerful. By appearing to his council above them and a large figure on a screen could be interpreted as the chancellor not feeling secure in his leadership position and turning to intimidation techniques to remain in charge. Use of intimidation and fear to remain in control has been a constant trend in history with dictatorships like Hitler’s Nazi Germany being an exact example of the use of fear and intimidation to control his subordinates and citizens. The Nazi regime mirrors the way the High Chancellor rules England in the film and the viewers know from history that intimidation is not the best way to lead a successful and sustainable government. The director cuts to more shots continuously using cutting in editing to flick between the stacking of the dominos which build tension and anticipation. Shots with people in the Guy Fawkes mask symbolizing rebellion and anger towards the government while also showing support for V’s cause. “Anarchy in the UK” this is a quote said in one of the shots in the montage and we see a close of shot of a robber wearing the Guy Fawkes mask, this mask brings images of terrorism and destruction to the minds of viewers and that was the directors aim by having the mask shots in the montage. This use of dialogue and the symbolic mask relating to terrorism and rebellion viewers are given the impression that the country is slipping deeper into anarchy. Through the cuts of these shots the scene is narrated by Eric Finch a police investigator for the government as he discovers what V’s endgame is. The director cuts to a mid shot of Finch as he explains what he thinks V’s master plan is. The shot makes Finch look extremely impersonal when he is explaining what he discovered. He has no facial expression and no tone change in his voice, this makes the viewers realise that what he has found out is nothing good for the government and he feels detached from it. There is a fast cutting of shots as we see Finches prediction for the future. “I felt like I could see everything that had happened and everything that was going to happen”. This use of dialogue as we are seeing a snapshot of the future is important because it clears up to viewers that what we are seeing is in fact a real future prediction not just a hallucination. After the fast cut of shots, the music drops suddenly after we see and hear a low angle shot of the bell tower hitting midnight, the bell towers is the big ben an iconic symbol of London. The use of this specific bell represents what the city used to be and how V wants to return the country to its former glory. The use of music and the diegetic sound of the bell after the fast-paced montage makes the viewer think that the flash forwards and flashbacks are over. This is until the music builds back up again at the same time it cuts to a mixture of long shots and medium shots of soldier marching trying to quell anarchy and protests. The music finally builds to a crescendo while V is finally allowing all the dominos to fall. The Director uses more shots cutting between the dominoes falling and riots occurring. This makes the viewers see that the dominos are symbolic of the countries citizens and they are all rioting and protesting. Once the dominoes have all fallen one is left standing and we it cuts out a close up shot of V holding it up. This is a symbol for the viewers that the dominos represent the countries citizens and the one standing at the end is V because he intends to follow through and destroy the current government and lead the country to freedom. This ending has been building up in the viewers’ mind through the scene with all the different shots the director included for the viewers in order for them to be able to come to this conclusion without being told it directly. McTeigue seamlessly used symbols, montage sound, and camera shots to blend this scene into a very memorable scene for the viewers allowing them to puzzle out what is going to come further in the movie. This scene in the movie is one of the most significant scenes because the director managed to blend what has happened previously in the movie to what is going to happen.
Another scene that McTeigue utilized cinematography techniques exceptionally was the final fight scene at the end of the movie. Some techniques that stood out in this scene and were used incredibly well to give meaning to the viewers was the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds, movement, mise en scene and the dialogue used in the scene. He also used camera shots to give the viewers a sense of the tension and portray how powerful V is. The scene starts of with a wide shot of V surrounded by secret service, this allows the viewers to see how outnumbered V is. The way the director used mise en scene, placing V in the foreground and the secret service in the background makes V seem like the most confident and powerful in the room, despite being terribly outnumbered. The secret service member all have flashlights on their guns illuminating V with high key lighting so his figure is the one the viewers look at initially. This makes him seem strong and in control of the situation as his figure is illuminated and confident. This foreshadows that this fight scene will be V alone against everyone else. The way V is initially presented makes the viewers feel sympathetic to V as we can see he is horribly outnumbered but when looked at deeper the way the director used camera angles in the shot makes V seem powerful. This makes us as the viewers have confidence in V but still root for him as the underdog to win. The non-diegetic music that as added in editing is a violin increasing in temp with sporadic drum beats. This music builds up tension and apprehension. It cuts to a close-up shot of Mr Creedy and then cuts again to an over the shoulder shot of V, these camera angles and music combined give viewers a sense that a showdown between the two men is about to occur, both of them refusing to back down without a fight. “Take off ya mask”, “No”. This bit of dialogue occurs as the violin come to a crescendo further building the tension of the audience. This moment mirrors that of what one would expect in a film set in the wild west from cowboys both reading to square-up against their opponents, this similarity is created from the director’s use of non-diegetic music and camera shots furthering the audience’s knowledge that a fight is going to occur. “No what you’ve got are bullets and the hope that when your guns are empty I’m no longer standing because if I am you will all be dead before you’ve reloaded.” This quote from V makes viewers realise how much belief he has in himself and the confidence he has in his cause succeeding. This piece of dialogue is significant because the audience gains a deeper understanding of V personality and determination. We learn that the government and their weapons don’t bring him fear because the belief he has in his cause is greater than any fear he could have. The diegetic sounds of the bullets rapid-firing at V alongside the directors use of a multitude of camera angle shots to show V’s flailing body from the impact of the bullets from all angles. The camera shots used include wide shots from different angles and close up shots of his face. These mix of shots along with the diegetic sounds give the impression that V has struggled to battle the onslaught of bullets. The next shot is a wide shot of the secret service agents all lowering their guns in unison, thus making it seem that V has been taken down as they seem confident in the wide shot that V has been killed. The wide shot with the strategic placing of V and the secret service in the shot is an exceptional use of mise en scene. The characters are all placed in the best spot to create a dramatic response from the audience at seeing V under fire. The shot is in an abandoned building with very little props in the scene so as to not draw attention away from the onslaught that is happening to V. This use of mise en scene and set was the director’s intention in order to create a better viewing experience for the audience and make the scene more emotional and tense. The next shot the director uses is an extreme close of V’s face from the side the smirk of the mask showing. The mask has a very smug look on it, and the director used this shot to makes viewers know that the government has immensely underestimated V, and he is about to put them in their place. The smirk gives the audience the feeling that the bullets were nothing compared to what he is about to do to them. The non-digetic music builds up once again and V makes his move throwing his knives.The director added in non-diegetic sound in editing to the swords as they travel through the air in a slow motion a panning shot of the knives. The panning shot of the knives with the sharp slicing sounds the knives, makes the audience know someone is about to be impaled but unsure who V is aiming for and how he plans to dispose of everyone.The director used both slow-motion movement of the knife and the knife sound effect to create a sense of unease and show how strong and unbeatable V is. Throughout the entire fight scene the knife has the sharp slicing sounds and slow motion appearance, this emphasizes the brutality of the scene and builds up the tension of what V will do next. With the visual slow-motion effect on the knives making V’s attack seem almost easy. McTeigue also uses a mix of overhead shots, close up shots, wide shots and panning shot to show the entire fight scene and how V is taking them all down with no struggle. “Die why won’t you die” this dialogue from Mr Creedy is said while we see a medium shot of him backing away from V. This important as it shows how utterly clueless he is to the depths of V’s passion for his belief and how he will make his idea a reality no matter how hard they try to kill him and his idea. It cuts to an extreme close up of V’s face down the barrel of the gun which shows the viewers V from Mr Creedy’s point of view, this allows us to see how scared Mr Creedy is and how he is hiding behind his gun. It also show’s how fearless V as he stares straight down the barrel not phased one bit. The violin non diegetic music builds up once again as V says “this mask there is more than flesh, beneath this mask there is an idea Mr Creedy and idea are bulletproof.” This is the idea that V lives by in the movie the belief that an idea cannot be killed no matter how hard they might try. V saying this to Mr Creedy just before killing him is incredibly symbolic as Mr Creedy leaves the world with the knowledge that V will succeed. This is not what Mr Creedy wants and V saying it to him is representative of his final stand against the government. V’s stand against the government has been seen before and history and in the current world today. With the election of Donald Trump in America in 2016 there were many protests and marches around the time and one year after his election, all of these were protesting against his government’s values and discrimination. This is similar to V’s idea and rebellion against the totalitarianism government in the film at a less extreme scale to V’s violent, extremist approach.
Overall the film V for Vendetta is a look at what the future could be if citizens stop fighting for what they believe in, McTeigue used a range a range of cinematography techniques to portray this idea across to the audience. The domino scene was an incredible use of montage, camera shots, and lighting in order to add meaning to an incredibly complex scene that held a lot of importance for the plot in the remainder of the film. It being the main scene that revealed V’s master plan. The director managed to bring these complicated ideas to life in a way that engaged with the audience through film techniques. The final fight scene was another wonderfully produced scene in the film. The director used dialogue, sound, movement and camera angles to draw viewers into the fight scene and engage them. the scene was an important in the film as it was representative of V’s final stand against the government and his plan finally falling into place. V for Vendetta covers hard issues surrounding controlling governments and lack of civil liberties for the citizens. The film was a dystopian genre and luckily this interpretation hasn’t come true in the world yet. The world is currently seeing many protests against topical issues such as inequality, rights for abortion, equal pay, immigration and much more. This is incredibly important in ensuring the citizens of the world do not become complacent and lose their rights like the citizens in V for Vendetta did. This determination that we are seeing in the citizens of the world currently in fighting for what they believe they deserve should hopefully ensure the safeguard of human rights for future sociates. This will allow humans to have the freedom to do as they wish in the future without extreme vigilantes such as V having to go to such drastic measure to take back basic human rights.