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V for Vendetta Religious Elements Essay

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By dwade03
Words 1530
Pages 7
RLG101H
Introduction to the Study of Religion
Prof. Ken Derry Grading TA: Brian Carwana

“Remember the idea, not the man”
By: Karanveer Singh
998435304
Date: 12/2/2011
Word Count:1,488

James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta is an action packed film. It not only serves the purpose of entertaining the viewer but also has religious elements in it. The central belief of the movie is that an idea and symbol cannot be destroyed; it is impregnable. This belief in the movie is reinforced by Rituals that occur frequently in the film. I will draw on the concepts of ritual from Malory Nye’s Religion the basics and will argue that the use of the mask and the letter “V” in this film function as a method of ritualism and symbolism. Also, I will analyze ritualization and transformation through the stages of Rites of Passage and dispute that it transforms the character Evey’s life. The film V for Vendetta portrays the beliefs of idealism. The first few minutes of the film give a glimpse of the key message that is going to be depicted in the film. The prologue in the film shows that a man named Guy Forkes got caught and executed for trying to blow up the house of parliament in London England but his ideas and beliefs did not die, they fueled revolutions for generations to come. In the prologue of the film a narrator says “that remember the idea not the man, man can be killed and forgotten but the idea cannot be killed”. Towards the end of the film, when the thousands of common citizens rally to the parliament building, something to notice is that their march is orderly. During the march, astonishingly there is no violence. This was the point where order was being born out of disorder. Therefore, one can argue that V's objective was to create havoc and then, more significantly, to encourage the common people of the idea of change. V accomplishes this through Evey. V’s death was the symbolic passing of the idea to the people. The common citizens decided to embrace the idea of havoc but then through organization bring order back to society. This was symbolized by lifting their masks. This clearly points to the central message of the film that ideas and symbols can live on forever. The use of the mask by the Character V in this film is an important component of ritualism and symbolism. In Nye’s “Religion the basics” it is stated that “the importance and significance of rituals is that they work through symbols, therefore ritual may be seen as symbolic action and symbols are at the heart of rituals”. The mask worn by the main character V in this film is very symbolic of his beliefs. Towards the end of the film, he refers to himself as an idea and says ideas are bulletproof. He sacrifices his life for his idea of change and thousands of people support him by wearing the masks he had sent to them thus showing support for his beliefs. Going back to Nye’s theory of rituals as symbolic action it can be said that the mask is a symbolic action of V’s ideas. Another ritual in the film that is represented symbolically is the use of the letter “V”. As Nye mentions that “Symbols are items which have meanings and associations which are not intrinsic to their physical properties”. In the first fifteen minutes of the movie, V in his opening speech to Evey, enlightens his beliefs using words that begin with the letter “V”. The other meanings associated with the letter “V” can be V for Vendetta and V for Vengeance. Throughout the movie those are the main ideas behind V’s actions and beliefs, the letter “V” stands for Roman numeral five, in the film it stands for the fifth day of November the day remembered for the gun powder treason and also the day V plans to bring change. It also represents the concentration camp larkhill that V was imprisoned at in a room labeled with roman numeral five (V) , also V can represent V for Victim for all of the people in the concentration camp. The V also represents Valerie (V for Valerie) who wrote all those letters that Evey read. When V takes out his knifes he takes them out in the form of letter “V” and thus can be said when he reveals his knives he is symbolizing vengeance. Analyzing the use of the letter “V” throughout the film it can be said that it is used as an icon of the character V’s ideas and objectives. The ritualistic and symbolic elements of the mask and the letter “V” can be related to the key message of the film that ideas and symbols cannot be killed, and the letter “V” even after the character V’s death stays alive and his ideas and principles. A theory from Nye’s Ritual and transformation that can be applied to the film is Arnold van Gennep’s ‘Rites of Passage’. It is stated in Nye’s Religion the basics that “Rites of Passage” are rituals that involve major change and usually occur at important times within a person’s life. There are three stages of the Rites of passage theory, which are ‘separation, liminality, and incorporation’. The separation stage is described as where there is “some separation between the participants and the world in which they normally live, in this way the person is detached from the roles and obligations that have been associated with their lives up until that time”. The separation stage in V for Vendetta begins when one of the main characters Evey is rescued by V, when she stays with V she is separated from her normal life, from her job at BTN and during the time she spends with V she learns of V’s beliefs and ideas although she does not support them. In the second stage liminality, Arnold van Gennep argued that it is a “vital part of the transformation” which Rites Of Passage tries to achieve. This stage tries to “mark the boundary between the world that they are leaving behind and the social world which the ritual is preparing them for”.
The liminality stage in the film is when Evey is captured and imprisoned, tortured by the governments secret police. During imprisonment she is asked to reveal the whereabouts of character V but she does not give them the information, instead she chooses death over giving information. Evey coming out of the jail learns that everything she had gone through was staged by V because he wanted her to experience how he felt when he was imprisoned and doing that changed Eveys views and also helped her overcome fear. This is the most important part of Evey’s life as she changes into a different person, also she would not agree with V before of his ways of attaining change but after this stage after experiencing what V had experienced she supports his views. Therefore this part of the movie can be argued as the liminality stage because of the transformation of Evey’s persona. Finally, the last stage incorporation as stated in Nye’s book “gives an indication of the new role that the participants are to take on”. This stage can be seen towards the end of the movie V before he dies leaving Evey with a train full of explosives and tells her to decide if she will send it towards parliament or not. She decides to send it towards the parliament building, an action she would not have committed as the old Evey. This is an indication of her new role in society, her views have changed she is now a different person. The Rites of passage theory can be applied to key message of the film because the stages involve in Rites of passage help V’s idea of change come into effect in the end of the movie when Evey sends the train towards parliament building with explosives.
In the film V for Vendetta the key message that is portrayed to the viewer is that a man can fail, but his ideas and beliefs will live on forever. The mask and the letter “V” in this film have symbolic meanings attached to them and function as a method of ritualism and symbolism. The Rites of passage stages transform the character Eve’s life and also helps bring out the key message in the film towards the end as Evey gives life to V’s change when she sets the train towards the parliament building. Upon further examining the film, the statement made by V to Evey which states “the building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it, symbols are given power by people alone a symbol is meaningless, but with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world”, can be associated with 9/11 as after the twin towers were destroyed in America there was change, in terms of security measures, war on terror, the way people looked at religion and politics also changed.
Bibliography
Nye, Malory. Religion the basics. 2004. Reprint, New York: Routledge, 2008.135-147

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