In the dystopian film, V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue, the protagonist, V, uses terrorist tactics in a vendetta against the controlling leaders of England. McTeigue uses cinematography techniques to put across his purpose of ’emphasizing to the viewer the ‘power of an idea’. In this case, the idea that is put across is V and his mask as a somewhat superhuman revolutionary figure, based on the concept of Guy Fawkes. Three techniques that McTeigue uses effectively to put across his purpose in the ‘domino scene’ and the ‘final fight scene’ are symbolism, dialogue and montage.
One technique that McTeigue uses to emphasize to the viewer the power of an idea is symbolism. In the ‘domino scene’ dominoes are used as a symbol to convey the message that V is ‘stacking his dominoes’ one by one with each new event and building up to a big end goal, which is when the ‘dominoes’ and the government will fall. This can be seen visually by V placing each domino with precise care as each event is recounted by Finch, showing that everything that has happened has been carefully orchestrated by V for a reason. This shows ‘the power of an idea’ because V is building the idea in the public’s mind of a revolution against the government with each new thing he does, and when the dominoes fall the ‘idea’ has won. For example when the chancellor and Mr Creedy come up against each other, a domino is placed, this domino representing a chink in the governments armor. When Finch says “one long chain of events” the dominoes are shown all lined up, representing the chain of events. In society we talk about ‘the domino effect’ as when one event sets of a chain of similar events, because when one domino falls over it knocks over all those behind it. This concept is seen in the film when V stands up against the government it has the effect of the public standing up too as he has shown them that it is possible, therefore proving ‘the power of an idea’. In 1605 Guy Fawkes, who V bases his revolutionary ideas off, tried to become that first domino for the Roman Catholics in England. He did this by trying to blow up British parliament but was caught in the attempt, and therefore the dominoes did not fall and the government continued to rule as they had before. Two other techniques used in the ‘domino scene’ to put across ‘the power of an idea’ is dialogue and montage. Dialogue is used in this scene as a commentary to the scene, as Finch talks to his coworker about what he thinks is going to happen over time and how he believes that he “has the feeling that everything is connected.” and how he could, “suddenly see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back before Lark Hill… I felt like I could see everything that had happened, and everything that was going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern playing out in front of me.” This dialogue is being played behind a montage of flashbacks and flash-forwards in the film, coupled with the shots of V stacking the dominoes, showing how everything was connected. This helps to convince the viewer of ‘the power of an idea’ as we can see the origin of the idea and how events have interwoven to reinforce the idea to the public. Examples of these events include the ‘V’ written in fireworks in the sky when the Old Bailey is blown up, spray painted ‘V’s’ over the government’s propaganda posters and V’s face on public screens when he addresses the public, asking them to join him. This montage of clips also includes the faces of the public as they watch their televisions, as the idea is played out to them and when they begin to believe in it. Real life riot footage used in the montage helps the viewer to understand how the idea of an uprising of the public against the government can be reflected back to real life situations, such as the Brixton riots of 1981. The three techniques work together in the ‘domino scene’ to put across the directors intention of emphasizing ‘the power of an idea’ as they convey effectively the process in which V starts the idea and how he convinces the public of it, using the dominoes as an object in which to put across this purpose. The effect that these techniques have on the viewer are installing a real belief in how V is building this idea to garner the public’s support, as the techniques work together to show how everything in the movie has come together to put across the directors intention.
Another scene in which film techniques are used to show the directors purpose of emphasizing the power of an idea is ‘the final fight scene’. V’s mask is used as a symbol to convey this purpose as the mask is used as the object that carries the idea, which turns V from a human being to somewhat superhuman. The idea of a mask emphasizing the idea of a person and giving the public something to believe in is based on the traditional superhero figure. The use of the mask hides the appearance of the hero, and this can be compared to other masked heroes such as Captain America. Captain America also came to become superhuman through being a victim of laboratory testing, then used his powers for the good of the public and to go on a personal vendetta against those who mistreated him. The hidden appearance removes the humanity from the figure and they become something more, and the mask allows superhuman feats easier to believe in than a normal person would. The symbolism is shown visually when Creedy’s men try to remove the mask from V and the mask just looks at Creedy, almost mockingly until the last minute when he kills the men trying to remove the mask. This shows that the director is trying to emphasize the power of an idea as the mask seems untouchable and because no one has seen V’s face and never will, it almost seems as if he is one with the mask. A moment when the viewer is truly convinced of the ‘idea’ that the director is trying to put across is when the symbolism the mask is accompanied by another film technique of dialogue. This is when V says “beneath this mask there is more than flesh, beneath this mask is an idea, Mr Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.” This effectively shows the power of the idea that V portrays and that the idea of the mask and what is behind it is powerful enough to cause an uprising of the public as V is seemingly invincible and therefore gives them hope. Montage is also used in this scene to condense the time it takes for V to kill all of Creedy’s men. A series of different shots are used to show V’s extraordinary fighting skills in this montage. V’s fighting seems amazing to the viewer as V has been shot multiple times and if he were a normal person he would be dead. This further reinforces McTeigue’s intention to emphasize the power of an idea as V should be dead. However, the idea behind the mask propels him to continue fighting his cause until he has done all he can do. V’s commitment to his cause reminds me of another dystopian film, ‘The Hunger Games’, where Katniss risks everything she cares about to come up against the controlling government. Like V, Katniss was put in situations where she could have easily given up, but her belief in her cause makes her continue to fight, and eventually win. The three techniques work together effectively to show a different side of McTeigue’s intention, in the ‘domino scene’ the idea is being constructed and in the ‘final fight scene’ the idea is being put into play, with V in his mask at the forefront as a superhuman revolutionary figure. The effect that this scene has on the viewer is we are put in a position in awe of V and in the viewers eyes he becomes more than human.
In conclusion, McTeigue uses three film techniques of dialogue, montage and symbolism effectively to put across his intention of emphasizing the ‘power of an idea’. The idea that V is a superhuman revolutionary figure to the public of Britain has been shown successfully in both the ‘domino scene’ and the ‘final fight’ scene through the combined use of these techniques. This is shown in the building of the idea in the ‘domino scene’ with the stacking of the dominoes accompanied by Finch’s commentary and the montage of all of the things that play a part in the construction of the overarching ‘idea’ that could overthrow the government. This scene also helps to emphasize how such an idea can be used in real life, using footage of the Brixton riots. In the ‘final fight scene’ these techniques present V as a superhero behind a mask, so the viewer can compare him to other superheroes with a need to avenge a cause. He is shown as a leader, with powers that make the public in awe of him and allow them to believe in and follow his cause. V himself delivers the public hope and allows them to wish for freedom against a controlling government. McTeigue’s use of cinematography techniques in these two scenes helped me, as a viewer, to understand how one man and an idea can be used to create drastic changes within society.