Monday, December 19, 2005

[BNAT] V For Vendetta (Bonus Short: "Der Feuhrer's Face")

This film required a second security check. So we went outside for roughly 20 minutes, during which some people took a smoke break and others tried to guess what the last film was. When we went back in, Harry told us that this screening almost didn't happen. He got a call from Warner Brothers a few weeks ago that he wasn't going to get it. But a few days before BNAT, he got another call from WB, saying that they had reconsidered. The film is supposed to open the Berlin Film Festival next year, so they had to get permission for it to be screened somewhere else. I get the giggles just thinking about some WB exec calling Berlin and saying "Can we send it to Butt-Numb-A-Thon first?" Anyway, we were told that we were going to see the only print of the film that exists right now, and that it flew from Melbourne, Australia to LAX, where it would go through customs and be handcuffed to a courier who delivered it just a few hours before we saw it.

Before the film started, though, we got a little treat. We had all been given kazoos in the shape of duck bills. These were for a short we were about to see, called "The Fuehrer's Face." It was a cartoon featuring Donald Duck, and he worked in a weapons factory in Nazi Germany. The soldiers marched around, singing the song "Fuehrer's Face", and all of us in the audience blew our duck bill kazoos during appropriate rests in the song. That will probably be my favorite BNAT memory from this year. Donald, of course, wearies of the experience of serving a Nazi regime. So it's a good thing that in the end he wakes up in America - it was all a dream. He goes over to his model Statue of Liberty in the window and hugs it, saying how glad he is to live in the USA. And this was a pretty good setup for our last feature...

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

I loved. this. film. This is based on a comic I never heard of, but it's incredibly gutsy, and it pulls no punches. It's set in a futuristic London, in a time where England has become a totalitarian society. Individuality has become a thing of the past, and the people live in fear of their government. But one man, known only as "V", wants to change all of that. By using terrorist tactics, he attempts to show the people that their government has imprisoned them. One night, he rescues Evie (Natalie Portman) from being taken captive by the secret police. He takes her to a roof where she watches him "conduct a symphony orchestra" (i.e., watch a government building being blown up).

This is a tricky film, but incredibly profound. It will, no doubt, be misunderstood and reviled by many, but those who hate it for its message are not understanding what the message is. This is very much a mind-opening film, and its object is to make people think, not incite them overthrow governments. It's meant not to encourage people to establish a new world order, but to preserve the world order that we have now and which seems for some to be slowly eroding.

This movie excels on all levels. It looks great and sounds great. The acting is superb and the cast is outstanding - Natalie Portman (her best work yet, IMO), Hugo Weaving (who has a tall order, trying to play a major role without the use of his own face), Stephen Fry, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, and many others whose names I've forgotten. I love the look of the film - how all the scenes with the government are in very stark colors and lighting. It is extremely well-written - Weaving's speech, full of almost all of the "v" entries in the dictionary, is a thing of beauty. And the action is very well done - particularly V's last battle - and doesn't overwhelm the movie at all.

It's very easy to see why this film was pushed back from its original November release date. When the climax of your film is the Houses of Parliament blowing up, it's probably not a good idea to release it just a few months after a real life terrorist attack on that same city. I'm amazed that this film is still going to be released at all. Heck, I wonder how it was made in the first place in a post-9/11 world. It's such a brave movie, and the filmmakers have basically said "screw it" to any fears they might have had about how the film will be received. Hehe, I got a kick out of several audience reactions to this movie. There's a line where V says "People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people." This got applause from about half the audience. I also heard someone say as the credits started to roll, "Well, this film won't play well in the red states."

The film will have to be marketed very, very carefully - basically within an inch of its life. Partially because of the political element and partially because it's a "comic book" movie. If they try to market it HP-style with the lunchboxes and toys and such (which, considering we're dealing with WB, is very possible), I think they'll be making a mistake. This is not that kind of movie. And, um, kids should really not be playing with a doll that's wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Just saying.

Anyway, I anxiously await the US release - partly to see it again and partly to watch how people react to it. I sincerely hope this film makes people talk - whatever their opinion of it - and that it gets the attention I believe it deserves. This is a brilliant, incendiary, and dangerous film. The kind they haven't often made since the 1970s.

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