Feb. 15 – Receiving its world premiere at the Berlinale, Wachowski brothers' film 'V for Vendetta' is out to provoke.
The good guy in the Wachowski brothers' latest cinematic adventure is a terrorist at war with the British government.
The masked crusader plants home-made bombs on London's subway system in pursuit of justice. The Orwellian authorities rule chiefly by fear.
With "V for Vendetta", the scriptwriters who brought us "The Matrix" may be asking for trouble.
Starring a shaven-headed Natalie Portman as the foil to the mystery man known only as V, the film is based on a 1980s graphic novel warning readers about the danger of a lurch to the political right under then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The central character, played by Hugo Weaving, seeks to emulate the 17th Century Catholic rebel Guy Fawkes, who narrowly failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London on November 5, 1605, and was hanged for his troubles.
The narrative is set in a near future in which wars have reduced the United States to chaos.
One character says "blowing up a building can change the world", and another is arrested for hiding a Koran in his home. The film's tagline is: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
"I think it's a discussion that we have every day now, you know, like in the media and on the television, like the issues that we touch on in the film are in the paper every day, are in the news media every day and I think people will be surprised as they want to be, I mean like they are talking about it on a daily level already, this film is just putting something else out there as well. But it is, you know, it is a work of fiction, a piece of entertainment you know, that's what sets it apart," director James McTeigue explained to Reuters in Berlin ahead of the film's world premiere.
Portman said she hoped the movie would challenge people to question their assumptions.
"I think it's interesting for people to reconsider their thoughts about violence and how we categorise what's justified and what's unjustified," she said.
Vanity Fair magazine, which said the picture's release had been delayed from November 5 last year because of the July suicide bombings on London underground trains, called it "spectacular and exhilarating" and a return to "movies as cultural sabotage".
"You have a world teetering on the brink — apocalypse being the animating anxiety of the superhero genre," the left-leaning magazine wrote. "Apocalypse is, too, less than coincidentally, the fortifying principle of the Bush administration."
There was no sign of the reclusive Andy and Larry Wachowski in Berlin, and it was not clear if they would agree with such an interpretation of their film. But a copy of the article was included in press packs handed out to reporters in Berlin.
First-time director James McTeigue said he was aware that portraying attacks similar to those of recent bombings might not be universally popular.
"You know the truth of the matter is the film was made before that ever happened, you know, and we're working with material that was written over 25 years ago, and you know, it resonates into the past and the present and it'll resonate into the future. It's an ongoing discussion. And so, they were horrible tragic events which happened in London, but you know, the film is the film, and you know, I'm going to go out there with it as it is and so that's how it is," he told reporters at a news conference.
The topic of terrorism and its justification is not the only feature of "Vendetta" that may spark debate.
John Hurt, who plays the evil leader Sutler, is made to look and sound like Adolf Hitler, and images of biological experiments on human beings resemble the concentration camps of World War Two.
However, attending the red carpet screening of the film on Monday (February 13), actor Hugo Weaving, who plays the masked V, said the film was not one-dimensional and audiences are in for an interesting mixture of styles.
"I think a very interesting mix of serious ideas and exhilarating film-making, it's kind of unusual mixture of styles really and I think that's why it's interesting," he said.
Politics aside, for the leading lady premiering in Berlin meant closure.
"It's so exciting, because we had such a warm reception here, and everyone was so hospitable to us and the people in our crew were so so wonderful and nice and professional, and to be able to come back to the city that, you know, where we worked, that was so nice to us, and to sort of bring the movie back as a present, as a finished product is a really good feeling," said Natalie Portman.
'V for Vendetta' opens around the world in March.