Did you know that Guy Fawkes was a Catholic? You would not know that based on the 2005 film V for Vendetta, though it was a crucial part of the reason the famed conspirator and the day of his plot are remembered. Briefly, Catholics were persecuted in England hundreds of years ago, and he and his co-conspirators felt exploding Parliament was the only solution. Then again, I do not necessarily watch the movie for any specific Catholic-ness in it. And truth be told, given the nature of the repressive government portrayed therein and its reliance on “faith” as an opiate of the masses, it can be frustrating from that point of view. Still, the Catholic in me finds it enjoyable (aside from the violence).
V for Vendetta is set in an indeterminate time in the near future, in London, where a deadly virus had led to the rise of a fascist regime led by Adam Sutler (John Hurt). He maintains control over the populace through intense surveillance, control of the news, and the use of propaganda warning that without him, things would be much worse. Sound familiar? I will let you decide. At any rate, stepping into this world is Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), and we meet her on the way to a date. It is here that we first learn of the government run amok when she encounters secret police (known as “Fingermen”) who seem bent more on rape than serving and protecting. She is saved by the eponymous hero, V (Hugo Weaving), wearing a Guy Fawkes costume (and the famous mask) who is a vigilante extraordinaire about to make his first grand statement, blowing up the Old Bailey (London’s law court). Evey is allowed to return home this time, but the authorities learn of her involvement. They go to pick her up at her job working at the BTN network when V intervenes once more to share his message with London and the rest of England. In short, he tells them that Sutler stinks, and that they know it. In the process of breaking into the BTN, Evey helps V get away, prompting him to take her back to his hideout, the Shadow Gallery. Brought in to investigate these series of attacks is Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea), but the further he goes the more he uncovers the rottenness of the government of which V has firsthand knowledge. I say “firsthand” because it is revealed that the government, in the process of creating biological weapons, had made the virus, profited from the drugs put out to cure it, and created the human weapon that is V (though he escaped). His attacks are part of his grand design of revenge. As it turns out, Evey becomes a willing ally (though not at first) due to her parent’s initial outcry against the rise of Sutler, and they paid for their protest with their lives. V’s speech also galvanized Londoners broadly, and his call for them to meet him at Parliament to finally carry out the goal that had alluded Guy Fawkes centuries before is answered. Before he can join them, though, he must face Sutler’s right-hand man, Creedy (Tim Piggot-Smith), who had agreed to bring Sutler to V in exchange for V’s life. V is mortally wounded in the process and gives the final decision to blow up Parliament to Evey as the representative of the people.
Throughout V for Vendetta we are told that the thing that had motivated Sutler’s rise was fear, and it is clear that is how he maintained his power. The Catholic Church teaches that fear is not of God, which makes V perhaps one of the mostly Godly men ever as that is one emotion he lacks. Evey, though, has nothing but fear, borne of the experiences of her parents. Her time with V teaches her to let go of her fear, but it is a painful lesson. It involves V recapturing her after an escape motivated by her distaste for his violence. He then proceeds to torture her, but also feeds her a story shared with him while he was in captivity of a young woman who had been detained for her homosexuality. In the midst of her slow death spiral, she writes out her life story, ending it with sentiment shared with whoever reads it that although they will never meet, she loves them. While the Church obviously does not condone homosexuality (nor does it persecute them, as some might think), what a testament to the true nature of God. God is love. This inspires Evey to not give in to her torment, and it eventually frees her. When V takes her to the roof for air after her ordeal, she walks out into the pouring rain (London, am I right?), looks up, and remarks softly that God is in the rain. While that is a callback to something in the story she read while imprisoned, it also jives with Biblical teaching. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of God’s mercy shown in the bringing of moisture from the sky.
If you have not seen V for Vendetta before, I recommend it. However, it should be noted that some of its material might hit a little close to home given the state of our society currently. There is, of course, the tie-in with the virus in the film and COVID-19, and the fears it has produced broadly. There are also V’s acts. He has a line in there that I whole-heartedly agree with, “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” For him, this justifies his terrorist attacks. Governments should be mindful of their people, but not because they might destroy a building. They should remember that it is with us that true power lies, and to borrow another quote from the film, that an idea like freedom is bulletproof and requires no violence when expressed in a united cause.