In the topical and enthralling film ‘V for Vendetta’ directed by James McTeigue, differing camera shots/angles, lighting and music are used to portray his intentions. The ‘Domino’ scene and the ‘Final Fight’ scene both use these cinematography techniques to effectively convey an important message regarding the power of ideas. Throughout the film we follow the life of Evey, who lives in a not so futuristic London which is now controlled by a tyrannical chancellor and has become a fascist state, where day to day life is restricted and freedom is hard to come by. Introduction to V changes the course of the film. Through a series of acts we discover that he is a vigilante attempting to change the course of history, drawing inspiration from the acts of Guy Fawkes in 1605. V aims to return London to freedom and remove the totalitarian government by provoking the public enough to no longer fear their leaders and thus overthrow them. Accompanied by Evey he shows London the power of ideas and what influence they can have upon society when applied with conviction and support.

In the Domino Scene we see McTeigue use non-diegetic sound to create strong feelings and connections with the viewer. He also uses close up camera angles of V to increase the feeling of  intimacy between V and his actions. The scene begins with a close-up shot of V’s black gloved hand meticulously placing a single domino against a concrete floor, the close up of his hand shows that the revolution V is trying to achieve is through his own efforts. As he does so, suspenseful music begins playing with background sounds reminiscent of soldiers marching towards battle. This effectively creates the idea that what V is accomplishing correlates with going to war, however he is achieving it through different methods. The scene continues with the distribution of V’s outfits to the public with intermittent close-ups of his hand placing more dominos. With each placement of a domino a crescendo builds not just only in the music but also in what is occurring in the scene. Eric Finch, the man instructed to discover V enters his office as a hectic feeling appears, phones are ringing constantly, and anarchy can be felt bubbling up. His accomplice sums this up by saying “the whole city has gone mad.” This is substantiated by a shoplifter, wearing V’s mask, firing his gun and ensuring chaos when saying “anarchy in the UK.” The gunshot introduces a new element to the background music with ominous rumbling entering, we experience a feeling of apprehension, uncertainty of what is about to happen. As the complex domino arrangement nears completion more and more symbolic 5’s and V’s occurring from previous and future parts of the movie appear, giving us a better understanding of what has occurred and why. The domino puzzle represents the puzzle of V’s vendetta and as it becomes closer to completion so does V’s plan. Finch feels that he can see what is about to happen and see all that has happened in that build up, “I had a feeling that everything is connected.”

The use of non-diegetic sound, music in this case, and close-up shots in particular are used by the director to effectively portray the change in the society that is occurring as V’s master plan nears fruition. It displays the directors intention of showing us the ability to make change in society through an idea and its implementation into ones life, as V does by not adhering to the rules.

As the bell chimes midnight and V’s plan begins to reach the climax the music stops and slowly changes to a fast paced guitar strum and then again to a more sinister and slow paced song, when a civilian in a V costume is shot. These reoccurring changes in music shows how the little events that take place affect the greater final outcome. Everything that has happened in the lead up results in the tumbling of the dominos. The placement of each individual domino is like the occurrence of everything from Guy Fawkes through to V’s plan. Everything that has happened is related in some way, the tumbling of the dominos by V’s gloved hand is like the tumbling of the Parliament building and the State through V’s masterplan.

In the Final Fight scene we see the usage of camera shots/angles, lighting and music to effectively create a scene where the viewer is encouraged to feel for V and the mission that he is undertaking. It creates a sense of wonderment at the beginning as to if he will achieve his goal and then as the music changes produces a new feeling, one of positivity, as we see that V will in fact be successful.

The Final Fight scene begins with a full shot of the entire area, displaying V and his adversaries who have him surrounded and seemingly without escape. We see V standing completely isolated from any means of rescue, and directly opposite him stands his key antagonist Peter Creedy, a member of the State leadership group. This allows us to grasp the situation; it is essentially V versus the government represented by Creedy. Defeat of Creedy and the police would foreshadow defeat of the government and the houses of parliament. The scene itself has incredibly dark lighting, the music is soft and water can be heard dripping down implying an underground location, the darkness effectively pairs with the ominous music to present an image of danger with V’s fate unknown. Light shines on V as police attempt to remove his mask showing his dominance although he is the minority. Whilst this is happening the music builds up gradually before stopping, upon this Creedy can be heard telling his men “kill him”. Bullets get released from all parts of the room, supposedly killing V in the process. However, once this has subsided we see that death is not the case. A close up shot of V confirms this as the camera zooms in on his face to show him breathing heavily, emphasising his strength. We see that it requires more than just bullets to kill him. The return of music symbolises that the tables have turned, it is now V’s chance for victory. Thunderous, rumbling sounds coincide with V stating “my turn”. The following events display the power that V has in his idea. He dispatches every policeman and ends up facing Mr Creedy alone. Creedy, obviously astounded by V’s abilities questions how human he is. Here the director wants us to also wonder what it is that inspires V to do what he does and manage to survive through all the adversities. Creedy simply puts our thoughts into words for which an answer is provided by V. His ideas are what pushes him and what allows him to do what he does.

“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.” V’s reply shows us how much an idea means to him and how much he believes in it. Nothing will prevent him from carrying out his plans and instilling his beliefs into the public in a hope to exact change in the State.

The power of ideas and the influence that they can have on society is a key aspect of the film which the director and writers intended to be be transferred to the real world. Martin Luther King Jr, an American activist for Civil Rights believed in a USA where blacks lived in an equal society with whites and were not oppressed in any way, allowing them a life free of prejudice. Although not achieved in his lifetime, Luther King certainly set the foundations for this equality by spreading his ideas throughout the country and by influencing the opinions of others, most significantly via non-violent protests and use of emotive language in his carefully crafted speeches. He is essentially the polar opposite to V in terms of methods to achieve his goals but they both possess the same end desire. A change in society for the betterment of others. They both sacrificed their lives for the cause and both dedicated their lives to achieving their goals. This sacrifice for success shows the viewer how important it is to believe in your goals for them to become reality, if you don’t believe in them then no one will. V’s desire for change eclipses any adversaries he may face, as, in his words, “ideas are bulletproof.”

Throughout the film ‘V for Vendetta’ by James McTeigue and the Wachowksi Brothers, the usage of camera shots/angles, lighting and music is used to illustrate the impact that ideas can have upon society and how the instigator of these ideas simply needs the belief in them to initiate the change. V is shown to believe in his idea of change for a better society enough to begin the reshaping. This highlights what is the most important step. The beginning. Without a start there can be no end and so no change will occur. I believe that the directors intention was to portray this message so that we never become content with society and settle for adequacy at best. They wish for us to continue pushing for universal equality and worldwide wealth in all aspects of it.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. You need to give more detail about the director’s intention as far as what he wants the viewer to think/feel. When you discuss the two scenes, detail how the techniques the director chooses to use work together to be effective. You could also go into more specific detail about each technique, using exact terminology of the cinematography technique.

  2. Make sure you are using correct, precise terminology when you are discussing cinematography techniques, Alex.


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