*I had to repost this because the Wikileaks ‘hacktivists’ activity going on right now is as close to a global revolution as we have got lately, and this triple bill puts some of that spirit in context.
[Row Three programming if we owned a Rep Cinema]
The Revolutionary Triple Bill
V for Vendetta – 1pm
Hunger – 4pm
Che (both parts) – 7pm
When does a terrorist become a freedom fighter? How much would you sacrifice for a belief? How does the power of myth distort reality? This programme is about revolutionaries that live by a code as the world around them tires. We begin with fiction, a comic book dystopia in V for Vendetta. Out of the ensuing chaos of a plague-stricken England, an Orwellian police state forms, and as the populace resign themselves to their lot a revolutionary known only as V attempts to make everyone remember what happened on the 5th of November. When Vendetta originally came out, slotted as a summer blockbuster and the first big project associated with the Wachowski Brothers since The Matrix, it’s fair to say, and with no pun intended, it bombed. Taking from the densely political graphic novel and making something with as much levity as 1984, it disappointed the popcorn crowd, as it did me on the first viewing; on revisit, and in context of this triple bill, the potency of some of its ideas rise to the surface. Even this far after 9/11 the bite of Vendetta’s role reversal with the audience sympathizing with the terrorists is still there (in one scene V says blowing up a building is about destroying the symbol of power it represents). Vendetta satirizes the complacency of the modern world and the fascist undertones of the global village all from a particularly English perspective, which flows nicely into the otherwise stylistically diverging entry of this programme, Steve McQueen’s Hunger.
The Brits are still the oppressors but in this story the stakes are real, the ideas, emblazoned in history. Bobby Sands’ part in the IRA hunger strikes of 1981 made him, rightly or wrongly, a martyr for his people and his wish for a united Ireland. In their clothes and blanket protests, the political prisoners of Maze prison fought with every bodily fluid against the steely resistance of Thatcher’s England. The harrowing depiction of what they endured has echoes of Evey’s prison stint in Vendetta, the reliance on small mercies and the anecdotal ideal of what is worth dying for, but Hunger evokes far stronger the physicality of the sacrifice that is required. Watching Bobby Sands disintegrate after a long bout of torture and degradation is an act of endurance that makes substantive the ideas played up in Vendetta. The filter of revenge vis-à-vis The Count of Monte Cristo is lifted and you are left with the visceral realities at play in the revolutionary sacrifice. The standout scene of Hunger is the seventeen-minute single-shot debate between Bobby Sands and a priest over, among other things, the philosophical significance of his hunger strike. It is the heart of the movie, and by position and weight of its arguments, the heart of this triple bill, pitting the value of sacrifice for an ideal over the bodily safety of appeasement.
Steven Soderbergh’s Magnus Opus on Che Guevara never gets this explicit about the reasoning of revolution, it chooses instead to show in a multitude of seemingly mundane moments what it is to walk in the shoes of a revolutionary. Like Hunger, it shows the very real stakes of this commitment while providing a voyeuristic experience for those contemplating their own ethical and political leanings, but as a hagiography it keeps its feet firmly on the ground. The iconic revolutionary is here broken apart and put back together into a fascinating mosaic, a Che that accepts a little make-up when going on television, but holds fast to the code of solidarity over individual glory in the field. Hunger is oppressively insular, you feel the magnitude of Bobby Sands’ plight in his confinement in the prison, and only in flashback to his childhood do you get any sense of the wider world, the expanse of freedom he is dying for. In sequence, Che feels like a breathe of fresh air, as Soderbergh recreates as accurately as possible the guerrilla warfare of the Argentine in the jungles of Cuba and Bolivia. Like Sands and V, Che is fatalistically bent towards death, in each film this conviction never wavers, death seems to be the least they could offer for the cause. Is this fanaticism or saintliness? Soderbergh resists telling the audience what to think about Che through his mosaic approach, what you get are the disparate pieces that make up a man, and it is up to the audience to determine whether all the pain and suffering was worth it. As V proclaims in Vendetta, the body may deteriorate but ideas are bulletproof; by becoming mythic, Bobby Sands, Che, and V, become immortal.