The Visceral Politics of V for Vendetta: On Politica Affect in Cinema
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 …show more content…
Before discussing each of these modes in greater depth, I wish to stress that I take them up separately for purposes of conceptual clarity only; they are, in practice, intensely interwoven and interdependent.
Discourse and figure,7 the first two dimensions of a multi-modal approach to cinematic rhetoric, are derived from Lyotard's Discours, figure (1971), in which he probes the stabilizing structures and destabilizing energies that animate art. In the case of cinema, discourse describes those rule-governed movements or elements, namely narrative and language (i.e., shot selection, sequencing, and editing), that compose an orderly whole. “Cinematography,” observes Lyotard (1989a), “is … conceived and practised as an incessant organizing of movements following the rules of representation” (p. 170) in which any movements that do not make “sense” are excluded or cut. In psychoanalytic terms, cinematic discourse is a “secondary” process or activity because it presupposes an all-perceiving subject (already constituted in/through language), the spectator, who is separate(d) from the cinematic