Today I thought I’d share on of my favourite moments from one of my favourite films – V for Vendetta. The movie tells the story of V (Hugo Weaving) a freedom fighter out to topple the totalitarian government that currently rules over England. He plans to do this by emulating Guy Fawkes and destroying parliament. In the course of his mission he saves a women – Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) – who turns out not only to be an ally to V in his war against the government but also a source of love and a reminder of his humanity.
The moment I’ve chosen to discuss happens after V and Every meet and Evey is arrested for her ties to V. She’s taken to a detention centre where she is tortured. The torture takes its toll on her and you’re not sure whether she’ll stay loyal to V or break. One day Evey gets a note from an inmate in the cell next to hers. The note serves as an autobiography and details the events of her neighbour’s life – a woman named Valerie. Valerie describes the turmoil she had to suffer because of her lesbian lifestyle and how finding the love of her life – Ruth – was more than worth any torture that she’ll have to endure, even death.
“It seems strange that my life should end
in such a terrible place.
But for three years,
I had roses and apologized to no one.
I shall die here.
Every inch of me shall perish.
… but one.
It is small, and it is fragile…
… and it is the only thing
in the world worth having.
We must never lose it or give it away.
We must never let them take it from us”
This prison has taken away everything from Valerie – her beauty, her life, her love; but she’s accepted this because she knows that there is something that they’ll never be able to take away, something they’ll never be able to even touch – the last inch of her. Earlier in the note, Valerie refers to this inch as her integrity. We don’t all live in police states with governments that arrest us for being ourselves but we all face challenges in life; challenges that force us to compromise and often we lose ourselves.
Integrity has two definitions – one addresses the quality of honesty, the other the quality of being whole and internally consistent. If you bring these two together then integrity is about being truthful with regards to every facet of one’s self regardless the situation. That’s such a powerful idea. The idea of being true to yourself and your ideals despite the threat of prosecution or loss of life. How many of us truly live our own truth? How many times do we conform or attempt to be different in order to please society or ourselves? How many times have we lost that inch?
I know I’ve traded in that inch more than once in my life and I’ll probably trade it in again a few more times. I’m not perfect but, luckily for me, I don’t think perfection is a thing that human beings should ever attempt to attain. I go about my life everyday and try to do the best I can. I have my moments of weakness – I’m not a movie character (unfortunately). This is part of the reason I love movies so much, in these moments where I feel weak or fall short, I put one on and I’m reminded of what I could be – what I should be. I’m reminded of how important an inch can be and why it should never be given away.
I think people usually find such lessons in their religion but for me, the cinema is church. Sure, most of the time I have a box full of popcorn and all I want is to be entertained but there are moments, moments in great films where I learn. Learn to be better, learn the meaning of things I thought I knew, learn to accept who I am and, more importantly, who I am not. So I hope the next time life is challenging and you have a choice to make that you choose to hold on to that inch; because it is the best part of you.