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Gattaca (1997)

Gattaca (1997) Directed by: Andrew Niccol Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law Gattaca has always been an intriguing movie to me. Although it is set in the future, this movie depicts a future that is entirely achievable. Never mind the flying cars, the one piece suits, the apes, the robot uprisings, the faster than light speed travel, and the zombie apocalypse; this future is set in stone. Whether we want to or not, some health and ecological problems of today need to be addressed in the near future. That’s kind of where the plot of this film fits in. Imagine a world where automobiles use only electricity, the Earth’s power comes from the Sun, and genetic engineering has been perfected. These three simple ideas solve some of the largest problems facing our Earth today. With Automobiles using only electricity, no greenhouse gases would be emitted. If we could greatly increase the yield from solar panels, we could phase out Coal, Nuclear, and Hydroelectric power. With genetic engineering we could get rid of unwanted traits, such as baldness, obesity, and even genetic diseases. However, the film doesn’t raise the largest issue that would oppose genetic engineering; Religion. Religion would never support advancements of this nature. This is probably the only fictional part of the movie, because this could only exist in a world in which Religion doesn’t have an enormous grasp over people. This is something that is so far off, that it may never happen. So many barriers to the health and ecological problems exist that it’ll be very hard to achieve what this film suggests. However, don’t let the genetic engineering of the movie lead you away from the central theme. The film leaves it up to the audience to determine if genetic engineering is morally and scientifically right. The film opens up to two quotes, both representing the far ends of biases for and against genetic engineering. “Consider God's handiwork; who can straighten what He hath made crooked?" - Ecclesiastes 7:13 "I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother wants us to." Willard Gaylin


The first quote comes from the Hebrew Bible and the second comes from a PhD Bioethicist (Bioethics is the study of controversial ethics that deal with advances in biology and medicine). The two quotes seem like they represent both ends of the debate on whether gene altering is ethical. However both actually point out that we should alter who we are, because we were made “crooked” and that “mother nature wants us to”. Vincent (played by Ethan Hawke) is a person that shakes the morality behind gene altering. He was conceived naturally, so he is labelled in their culture as a “faith-birth”, “de-gene-erate”, or “God-child”. Vincent narrates near the beginning of the movie that they have discrimination down to a science. It doesn’t matter how smart he is, what he looks like, how much money he has; the only thing that matters is his DNA. So we have Religious, Environmental, Discriminatory, and Political themes all wrapped up into the plot of Gattaca. The first time that I watched the movie, I didn’t even think about any of these issues, because the movie doesn’t focus on these issues. It focuses on how Vincent gets around the discrimination and lives his dream.


Perhaps the most peculiar vision behind this movie is that the world portrayed in this film was suggested when global warming wasn’t recognized as much as a global threat as it is today. Because the movie was made in 1997, we can assume that the director or writers weren’t inspired from an Al Gore book/film or had gone to a UN Summit Meeting on the crisis of our environment. No, these people may have used their own judgment to picture the world of Gattaca. To put this peculiarity into perspective, here are some facts about the year 1997 that may or may not have a connection to the film: 1.) The cost of gas was around $1.10 a gallon 2.) Scientists announce that an adult sheep named Dolly had been successfully cloned, and was born in July 1996. 3.) Diana, Princess of Wales, is taken to hospital after a car accident in Paris. She is pronounced dead at 04:00 a.m. 4.) NASA launches the Cassini-Huygens probe to Saturn. 5.) The Toyota Prius, the first hybrid vehicle to go into full production, is unveiled in Japan in October, and goes on sale in Japan in December. 6.) NASA's Pathfinder space probe lands on the surface of Mars. 7.) Bloomsbury Publishing publishes J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone for us) in London. This year was not a huge year for the global warming or energy issues, so it’s pretty interesting that this movie deals with these issues. It’s also interesting that cloning (man’s first step towards genetic alteration) and the Toyota Hybrid were announced the same year that this particular film came out.

The movie’s plot show’s Vincent’s struggle to be Jerome Morrow, a man whose identity he needs in order to live the life that he wants. The real Jerome (played by Jude Law), is an eccentric immoralist that because of an accident is willing to give up his life for someone else. The film really builds the relationship that Vincent and Jerome share. The plot begins and ends with Vincent narrating, and it gives the film the sense of a story being told to us, rather than him saying, “Hey, I was born. It was hard, here’s how it began…” The plot has four overlying themes that come together in the end to give the movie its great ending. The first theme is that Vincent has a heart disease, and was told that he would die somewhere in his


thirties. The only parts of the plot that we see this affecting him is whenever he works out. This will eventually kill him, and he even hints that he may not make it back during his year long trip to work near Jupiter. The second theme is that Vincent takes on the life of Jerome and must keep this a secret. Now I could go into everything he does in order to keep this a secret, but that is a huge part of the plot, so I will let you enjoy that. The third theme is the murder of the mission director and the eventual discovery of Vincent’s eyelash near the scene of the crime. Enter the “antagonist” and problem of the movie. The last theme is the love story between Vincent and Irene (played by Uma Thurman). Vincent puts it best when he says,

“For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess: I’m suddenly having a hard time leaving it. Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. Maybe I’m not leaving … maybe I’m going home.” The funny part about the movies love story is that Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke became a couple during the filming of this movie and actually got married (now divorced).

Another part of the film that intrigued me was the soundtrack. The film was scored by Michael Nyman, and I really enjoyed his particular composing to this film. Although he is not seen as one of the major classical composers for film (John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, etc.), he does a wonderful job with this film. The main theme that can be heard in the end fits the scene really well. Although a bit heavy on the violin, his music has a tone like clockwork. What I mean by that is that every note seems to begin and end at exactly the moment that they were meant to. This reminded me of the movie in that the “Valids” were designed; however Vincent was really the one that was meant to be.


All in all, a great movie that takes a more philosophical approach to science fiction rather than the action packed approach. This is another example of a movie that I like to watch every couple of months because the actors actually did a great job in the film. Not just the protagonists of the film, either. Everyone who had a part performed really well. From Gore Vidal’s character of the director; to even the doctor that let Vincent get on the shuttle when he knew that he was an invalid (played by Xander Berkeley). I also enjoyed Alan Arkin’s character of Detective Hugo. He wasn’t really known until he won the academy award in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), but I thought that he played a great role in this movie as well. I believe that his character played an “invalid” detective that got his position by his skill and not his genes. Anton, Vincent’s brother, is his boss probably only because he is a “valid”. Hugo is really the only one who plays the part of the detective. Anton is just obsessed with finding his brother just so he can reclaim his superior title that Vincent took away from him when they were younger.


gattaca