Gattaca is a 1997 film about a future where most babies are genetically engineered at birth. Born the natural way, Vincent is an ‘in-valid’, an outcast from society. In order to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut, he takes the identity of a crippled ‘valid’ and sacrifices everything to infiltrate the space academy. Yet when the head of the space mission is murdered, he learns that he cannot escape his past forever…
This was my HSC text, and I’ve watched it too many times to count.
What I like
The cinematography is beautiful, which is rare in films like this which are not ‘epic blockbusters’.
The characters are played really subtly – which again is unusual in a film like this which is supposed to be about ‘issues’. We are shown rather than told their disappointments and joys.
I love the character of Jerome, a ‘perfect’ man, who loses a race, tries to commit suicide and instead is crippled for life. He is fascinating.
All the peripheral characters have their own struggles yet at the same time, each of their disillusionments are minor renditions of the major theme. They truly are a supporting cast.
Why I like it
This is such a carefully made film – and I really appreciate that. From costuming to music and characterisation. It makes use of silences well, which is refreshing. Somehow, a film about heavy issues is transformed into a masterpiece of beauty and reflection.
A friendship between two males is depicted very ‘normally’. They are not in love, nor are they ‘buddy-buddy’, nor do they resort to slapstick humour. And yet, the scene in which Jerome drags himself up a spiraling staircase with only his hands in order to save Vincent is touching. I find it fascinating and life-like – they are simply two adults going about their lives, and that is important because it is so little depicted on screen.
It’s a toss-up between the final swimming scene, in which Vincent finally beats his brother in the race by refusing to be cowed and “saving nothing for the swim back”, and the final montage in which Vincent blasts off into space and Jerome commits suicide.
Issues and complexities
It could be argued that Jerome’s suicide is depicted as a ‘good’ thing – Vincent having given him back the courage to pursue it. Yet it is also clear that his suicide is the result of a world gone wrong. It’s complex, and I don’t think the film commits to one view or the other, and I like that.
I also, on one front, find Vincent’s single-hearted chase after his dream a tiny bit selfish. To abandon his family, to ‘use’ Jerome (although they clearly have a relationship agreement it could have turned out quite differently), to be willing to go to all extremes… to him is dream is worth all of that.