What Classical Music is in ‘V for Vendetta’?

by Patria
V for Vendetta

“V for Vendetta,” directed by James McTeigue and released in 2005, is a film adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Set in a dystopian future, the film explores themes of totalitarianism, freedom, and individual resistance. Music plays a significant role in the narrative, with classical music being particularly prominent. This article delves into the classical pieces featured in “V for Vendetta,” their historical context, and their thematic significance within the film.

Classical Music in ‘V for Vendetta’

“V for Vendetta” features several classical pieces that enhance the film’s atmosphere and underscore its dramatic moments. The most notable classical compositions in the film include:

Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

Antony and the Johnsons’ “Bird Gerhl”

Each of these pieces serves a unique purpose in the film, adding layers of meaning and emotional depth to the story.

1. Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”

One of the most iconic uses of classical music in “V for Vendetta” is Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” This piece is famously played during the climax of the film, where V orchestrates the destruction of the Old Bailey and, later, the Houses of Parliament.

Historical Context of the “1812 Overture”

Composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880, the “1812 Overture” was written to commemorate Russia’s defense against Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812. The piece is known for its powerful and dramatic crescendos, incorporating cannon fire, chimes, and brass fanfares to depict the intensity of the battle and the eventual Russian victory.

Thematic Significance in ‘V for Vendetta’

In “V for Vendetta,” the “1812 Overture” symbolizes rebellion and triumph against oppressive forces. The dramatic and triumphant nature of the overture underscores V’s anarchistic mission to dismantle the totalitarian regime controlling Britain. By choosing this piece, the filmmakers draw a parallel between the historical struggle for freedom and the fictional uprising depicted in the film. The explosive finale of the overture aligns perfectly with the visual spectacle of the buildings being blown up, creating a powerful and memorable cinematic moment.

2. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

Another significant classical piece in “V for Vendetta” is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. This symphony, particularly its famous opening motif, plays a crucial role in the film’s soundtrack.

Historical Context of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

Beethoven composed his Fifth Symphony between 1804 and 1808, a time of political turmoil and personal struggle. The symphony’s opening motif—three short notes followed by a long one (da-da-da-dum)—is one of the most recognizable sequences in classical music. Often associated with fate knocking at the door, this motif has been interpreted as a symbol of struggle and triumph.

Thematic Significance in ‘V for Vendetta’

In “V for Vendetta,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 represents resistance and the indomitable human spirit. The symphony’s motifs are used to underscore moments of tension and confrontation, reflecting the characters’ internal and external battles against the authoritarian state. The use of this piece aligns with the film’s overarching themes of perseverance and the fight for freedom, reinforcing the narrative’s emotional impact.

3. Antony and the Johnsons’ “Bird Gerhl”

While not a classical piece in the traditional sense, Antony and the Johnsons’ “Bird Gerhl” plays a significant role in “V for Vendetta.” This song is featured during a poignant moment between the protagonist Evey and V.

Historical Context of “Bird Gerhl”

“Bird Gerhl” is a song by the band Antony and the Johnsons, led by lead singer Anohni. The song, from their 2005 album “I Am a Bird Now,” is a delicate and emotive piece that explores themes of transformation and self-discovery.

Thematic Significance in ‘V for Vendetta’

In the film, “Bird Gerhl” plays during a moment of emotional vulnerability and connection between Evey and V. The song’s haunting and ethereal quality enhances the intimacy of the scene, providing a stark contrast to the film’s otherwise intense and dramatic score. It serves as a moment of respite and reflection, highlighting the characters’ humanity and the personal stakes of their struggle.

The Role of Classical Music in Cinematic Storytelling

Classical music in “V for Vendetta” serves multiple purposes, from enhancing the film’s emotional impact to reinforcing its themes and historical parallels. The use of well-known classical pieces allows the filmmakers to tap into the audience’s existing associations with these works, creating a richer and more immersive viewing experience.

Emotional Resonance

Classical music has a unique ability to convey complex emotions and evoke powerful responses from listeners. In “V for Vendetta,” pieces like the “1812 Overture” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 are used to amplify the film’s emotional highs and lows. The grandeur and intensity of these compositions mirror the dramatic stakes of the story, heightening the audience’s emotional engagement.

Historical Parallels

By incorporating classical music with significant historical context, “V for Vendetta” draws parallels between the fictional events of the film and real-world historical struggles. Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” for example, evokes the spirit of resistance and victory against tyranny, reinforcing the film’s message of fighting for freedom and justice.

Character Development

Music also plays a key role in character development. The inclusion of “Bird Gerhl” during a tender moment between Evey and V offers insight into their inner lives and vulnerabilities. This musical choice adds depth to their relationship and allows the audience to connect with them on a more personal level.

The Impact of Classical Music on the Film’s Reception

The use of classical music in “V for Vendetta” has contributed significantly to the film’s critical and popular acclaim. The soundtrack’s ability to enhance the narrative and evoke strong emotional responses has been praised by both audiences and critics alike.

Critical Acclaim

Critics have noted the effective use of classical music in “V for Vendetta,” highlighting how it enhances the film’s dramatic and thematic elements. The integration of iconic pieces like the “1812 Overture” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 has been particularly lauded for its ability to create a powerful and memorable cinematic experience.

Audience Reception

Audiences have also responded positively to the film’s soundtrack. The use of familiar classical compositions helps to create an emotional connection with viewers, allowing them to become more invested in the story. The dramatic crescendos and powerful motifs of the classical pieces resonate with the film’s themes of resistance and triumph, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.

See Also: Classical vs Pop Music: How Do Arrangement Differ?


Classical music plays a pivotal role in “V for Vendetta,” enhancing the film’s emotional depth, reinforcing its themes, and drawing historical parallels. The inclusion of iconic pieces like Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and Antony and the Johnsons’ “Bird Gerhl” adds layers of meaning to the narrative and creates a richer cinematic experience. Through its use of classical music, “V for Vendetta” not only tells a compelling story of resistance and freedom but also pays homage to the timeless power of music to inspire and move audiences.

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