By Brian L. Ott* pages 39-54
This essay concerns the role of political affect in cinema. As a case study, I analyze the 2006 film V for Vendetta as cinematic rhetoric. Adopting a multi-modal approach that focuses on the interplay of discourse, figure, and ground, I contend that the film mobilizes viewers at a visceral level to reject a politics of apathy in favor of a politics of democratic struggle. Based on the analysis, I draw conclusions related to the evaluation of cinematic rhetoric, the political import of mass art, and the character and role of affect in politics.
What is important in a text is not its meaning, what it is trying to say, but what it does and causes to be done. What it does: the affective change it contains and communicates; what it causes to be done: the transformation of these potential energies into something else … political actions. Jean-François Lyotard1
On March 17, 2006, the much hyped film, V for Vendetta, opened in theaters worldwide. Although the film, which is based on Alan Moore and David Lloyd's graphic novel of the same name, represented James McTeigue's directorial debut, it was far from a novice enterprise. The Wachowski Brothers—whose résumé included writing and directing The Matrix (1999), which garnered academy awards for best sound, film editing, sound effects editing, and visual effects—co-wrote the screenplay for Vendetta and, along with Joel Silver of Die Hard (1988, 1990) and Lethal Weapon (1987, 1989, 1992, 1998) fame, served as the film's producers. With such an impressive pedigree, and as the Wachowski Brothers’ first major undertaking since completing their epic Matrix trilogy in 2003, Vendetta was highly anticipated by critics and the public alike. Despite its impressive showing at the box-office, however, critical response to Vendetta was decidedly split.
On one side of the aisle were critics who praised the film as
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