Over the past few months, I have been hard at work on a short film series called Echelon. Set in a futuristic dystopia, Echelon criticises contemporary political policy regarding economy, as well as exploring the harmful impact of individuals’ decadence and, ultimately, the end justifying the means. I’m taking influence from other films and real world events, and in this article series; titled Influences; I explore the former. This week, I’ll be looking at James McTeigue’s cinematic adaptation of the graphic novel, V for Vendetta, and how its political structure serves as an influence, and a warning. Moreover, as a little bonus, I will also be exploring its relevance to our society
So. Have you heard? We are currently experiencing a global recession, and it’s not pretty. Not only that, but can you believe it has taken a significant toll on Britain, too? I know, it’s crazy, but it has, and a lot of people have suffered as a result of the recession, as well as certain governmental economic policies. Something that has affected me particularly significantly are the recurring cuts and tax hikes levied against the arts, and although the 2013 Autumn Statement assures that the government will consider tax relief on this invaluable asset (in Spring, 2014, I might add), I think it’s safe to be sceptical of such vague promises from politicians. Nick Clegg, I’m looking at you. Call me melodramatic, but it feels somewhat oppressive to have your conception of beauty treated so candidly by authoritative bodies.
Such issues are addressed in V for Vendetta, or at least a satirical representation of them is, and it is from here, as well as from our current political structure, that I take inspiration for the presentation of such a topic in Echelon. Let me be clear, I am aware that we do not live in anything nearly as bad as a dictatorship (go democracy), but V for Vendetta offers a critical reflection of our potential future, if the government is allowed to act so recklessly.
If you haven’t seen the film, it’s basically a dystopian alternative reality to Britain, one where a totalitarian dictator rules mercilessly over a country crippled by fear. Amongst this, a somewhat rebellious young woman, Evey (played by Natalie Portman), encounters a mysterious masked figure known only as V (Hugo Weaving), who has a vision to inspire freedom in an otherwise caged society. V takes Evey on a journey of realisation, and we, the audience, join her on it, as the government is revealed to be rife with corruption, decadent, and altogether bad.
On top of this, anything that may evoke powerful emotion (i.e. art) is put on a black list and hidden away; for fear that it may inspire revolt or uprising. Needless to say, certain thematic issues that arise in V for Vendetta chime well with my own views. It is with no exaggeration when I say that I believe art always has, and always will have the capacity to cause significant change, no matter what the circumstances. So naturally, seeing a vision of a world where art is taken away resonates with my own concerns regarding real political policies that attack culture. In turn, this film served as the foundation in constructing my own corrupt government. However, I wanted to take this even further, and so looked to my own sense of disparity when discussing politics in my art.
Echelon sees a world where Britain’s economy has suffered so greatly at the hands of selfish politicians, that it has been broken down into sectors, auctioned off to the highest bidder. In the case of Echelon, the titular and name of the specific sector it is set in, the highest bidder is a criminal mogul, known only as The Count, and he isn’t a very considerate man. In respect to our own economic state, the recent selling of the Student Loan Book, which provides the state with short-term relief at the expense of citizen security, strikes me as a cause for concern. Whilst in contrast, The Robin Hood Tax, a propositioned taxation on the financial sector (which, frankly, could handle it) has been resisted for almost three years now, preserving a small fraction of the rich’s wealth and decadence, once more, at the expense of the public.
Therefore, armed with an agenda to address, I am looking at the way in which V for Vendetta represents the ideological stance of its creators as a case study when conveying my own thoughts and beliefs. Ultimately, I think now more than ever is the time for major change, and despite its theatricality and exaggeration, art is the vessel needed to implement this change.
“Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.”
– Joe Aldous
- V for Vendetta (thehandgrenade.wordpress.com)
- V, the Inhumane Architect of Fictional Resilience (facilitatingresilience.wordpress.com)
- Subversion by ‘V for Vendetta’ (gettingreadyfordrawingrelation.com)