I’ve titled this blog in dedication to the Latin phrase, “Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici” which appears as an inscription on a mirror in the movie V for Vendetta. (If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend that you do.) In the film, V attributes the words to Faust, and explains that the phrase means, “By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe.”
I’ve never read Faust. But I know the general story. Faust was a scholarly man with an unsatiable hunger for knowledge. So much so, that Faust made a deal with the devil to trade his soul for all the knowledge of the universe.
From what I know, many different versions of the story of Faust have appeared throughout history. Some end in tragedy for Faust, who ends up being damned for making his deal with the devil. However – Goethe’s version of Faust (the one which V attributes the phrase to) ends with Faust being rescued by angels who proclaim that one who never ceases to strive in life can be redeemed. In this version, Faust goes to Heaven.
This reference to Faust is such a seemingly small slice of the movie. On the surface, it could appear to be just a trinket which evidences V’s affinity for words which begin with his favorite letter/number. Throughout the film, V’s pop up constantly – in the names of the characters, in the words V speaks, in the date of revolution (the fifth of November), and strikingly, on V’s prison door – the Roman numeral five. So what’s with the letter or number V? Is it just a quirky, yet meaningless character trait? It is any coincidence that there are five V’s in the Latin phrase from Faust? One thing is for sure, V himself would assure you that there is not such thing as a coincidence.
My intent is not to write a movie review, but the aforementioned peculiarities concerning the meaning of the letter/number V beg some analysis. What does V mean? Before getting caught up in little details, it’s important to look at the bigger picture first. This movie is not only about social revolution, but personal revolution. Like the meaningful scene in which V taps one domino and the rest fall in reaction, the message of this film is an important one: change begins with one person who decides to act. When one individual has the courage to go against the grain, to stand up for truth and justice, a revolution can begin. It’s precisely a domino-effect.
I think this is why this movie resonates with me. My favorite, favorite scenes are the ones in which Evie is tricked into believing the government is torturing her to learn of V’s whereabouts. Previously, Evie had told V she wished she were brave like her parents, but she was too scared to stand up for change. After being given a final chance to narc on V, she boldly tells the interrogator she would rather die. At this moment, V (posing as the interrogator) tells her, “Then you have no fear anymore.” After this, she is released and quickly learns it was all a trick. She is immediately angry and confused, but V guides her to own her feelings, to absorb what this experience (though faux) has taught her. Without fear (of persecution, alienation, imprisonment, death, etc.), people can stand up to evil, and fight for justice.
A word on V’s unusual method. V is an interesting character, in that he desires to preserve truth and justice — yet at first, I found his violent nature a questionable part of his character. After all, he mercilessly kills several people (despite that they may deserve to die), and tortures Evie. Does it not seem contradictory, or barbaric? However, after some consideration, you begin to see that V’s method is actually quite sound. By enacting certain negatives, the resulting bigger picture is enormously positive in comparison with the loss. V killed several government officials – a definite negative action. Yet allowing these officials to continue to live and remain in power costs the lives of thousands more innocents – the victims of the government’s pureposeful unleashing of disease in order to profit on the antidotal drug. In a frightening government such as the one depicted in the movie, there could be no humane justice for these monsters because the entire system was corrupt. Thus, V’s decision to murder these officials seems the only logical action to take in order to effect a much-needed change. In killing those in power, the outcome is positive in a much greater proportion – the people have regained control of their country and their lives, and assumingly have initiated a better future. V demonstrates an intuitive sense for how one action – though an inherently negative one – will most efficiently effect the desired positive outcome.
We can use this method in our everyday lives, too. By dropping all previously held notions of good versus bad actions, and considering the desired outcome first – we can achieve much greater things. It’s the “look before you leap” principle. Too often in our daily lives, we get wrapped up in unimportant details and forget to look ahead, or consider how our current reality could be bettered by taking certain actions.
This is not me advocating causeless murder, but I do believe that in certain circumstances, murder is justifiable. I myself would not have the conscience nor the courage to do such a thing, but I do see that sometimes, it IS necessary. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts — rather, sometimes it is better to act in the interests of many instead of a few. In our individualist society, we focus so much on our own interests that we forget to consider how our daily actions affect the whole.
This is why I believe capitalism is evil, but that’s a story for another time.
Returning finally to the curious repeated references to the letter/number V, I definitely believe this is not some cute use of alliteration to spice up the story. I would love to pick the writer’s brain, and ask about the significance of this. I have heard before that in Ancient Chinese philosophy, the number five held great meaning. Five was considered to be the center of the universe, for it is the middle number between one and ten. Ancient emperors believed so strongly in the power of the number five that they organized their entire empire based on it. Of course, the exact meaning may have been lost over thousands of years, and I admittedly I am not very knowledgeable on the subject — thus it may require more research.