As with all great literature, whether written or viewed, the technology is merely the setting for a good love story, which is itself merely a 'by the way' for a story of personal development. The idea, pretty near for us today, is that we will be limited by the apparent potential 'written' in our DNA.

The plot concerns Vincent, played by Ethan Hawke, who was 'conceived in love,' by chance, and not by the design that most others were. So, his DNA is not optimum.

After 'kicking around' in the underclass of those whose DNA doesn't measure up, who are prevented from getting the jobs those with elite DNA can, Vincent decides to transform himself. With the aid of those who make money from such things, he does.

His dream, always, was to go to space. This drives him beyond his potential, not written in the stars, but written in his DNA. On the way, he surpasses his biological brother, who is genetically perfect, and another, whose gene-identity he acquires.

Actually, it is quite a moving movie, not what I had expected. But then, it deals with aspirations, not mechanisms, the dreams that make our lives.

Actually, Gattaca is spelled using the abbreviations to the 4 deoxyribonucleic acids; were it spelled using the abbreviations to the 4 ribonucleic acids, it would be Gauuaca (which sounds better!).

The name is likely a corruption of the famous ATTACCA, with the fourth base added and a C removed for reasons of aesthetics.

One of the subtler pieces of symbolism in this movie is the spiral staircase in Vincent's and Eugene's house, which is designed to resemble the DNA double helix. Some SPOILERS follow:

  • A common term for the person Vincent has become is a "borrowed ladder". Vincent is borrowing the house, and specifically the upper level, from Eugene along with his identity.

  • When Vincent moves into the house, Eugene lives on the lower level, at the bottom of the ladder/helix, while Vincent lives on the top. Following his accident, Eugene has reached the bottom of his genetic potential, while Vincent uses his genetic material to climb to the top of that potential.

  • When the police inspector comes to the house looking for Jerome/Vincent, Jerome/Eugene has to make the incredibly difficult climb up the stairs to the top level using only his arms. He has to borrow the "borrowed ladder" back from Vincent and climb to the top to be Jerome again, achieving his own potential through a physically demanding activity. (I guess all that Olympic swimming paid off.)

  • Finally, when the police inspector descends the stairs to see what's on the lower level, Vincent is already there hiding behind a pillar. Vincent is literally hiding behind Eugene's "borrowed ladder" to keep his true identity out of view of the police and his own superiors.

Gattaca - 1997 - Directed by Andrew Niccol

Running Time: 106 minutes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA.

Special Features:

  • Lost Scenes
  • Poster Gallery
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer and Documentary
Technical Features:

This is another packed DVD. There are at least twenty minutes of lost scenes, including a coda which probably shouldn't have been cut from the film. There's a bunch of still photos (blah...), and the trailer and documentary. On top of that, the picture and sound quality are outstanding.

More DVD Reviews

Listen carefully to the lobby announcement at the beginning of the film: "Bonvenon al Gataka-urbo. La Gataka horo estas dek kvin post la sepa." For curious linguists, that's in Esperanto. ("Welcome to Gattaca City. Gattaca time is fifteen after seven.")

gattaca: negative consequences

Throughout Niccol’s film Gattaca, the audience is subject to pessimistic views about the possible future society stemming from his fears of what advancements in genetic science in the “not-too-distant future” may bring. Niccol shows this with his ideas about “genoism”; a new form of discriminate based on ones genetic make up, and also his ideas about the segregation of society, based on the genetic superiority (“valids”) or inferiority (“in-valids”) of an individual. He also explores the idea that complete faith in a system like the one Gattaca promotes, could be detrimental to any society in that “the best test score in the world wasn’t going to matter unless (you) had the blood test to go with it”.

Through the manipulation of elements of the human species, society aimed to rid themselves of imperfections such as susceptibility to drug and alcohol addictions, violence and also to eliminate discrimination based on race, belief or the colour of skin just to name a few. Despite society’s apparent success, there was still a window left open for “genoism”. Niccol best describes the effect that genoism has on the society of Gattaca through Vincent’s narration during his flashbacks. These scenes showed Vincent being denied childcare due to his injury prone status because, “the insurance won’t cover (him)”. Despite his academic qualifications, Vincent was also knocked back on a job interview, which forced him to the conclusion that, “the best test score in the world wasn’t going to matter unless I had the blood test to go with it.” Niccol’s idea suggests that there is a threat of making discrimination easier if the exact time of death, susceptibility to illness and social disorders were known at the time of birth.

As a result of breakthroughs in genetic science, there is a very real possibility of splitting society into two main groups based on genoism. That is, society will be segregated so that the “valids” with their superior DNA are disassociated with the “in-valids” that are only fit to 'clean toilets'. Niccol demonstrates this idea through certain camera shots and contrasting between two events taking place simultaneously. While the “valids” sit in a lightly coloured room with a luxurious feel, listening to the six fingered pianist, the "in-valids" are being lined up in a dimly lit street being interrogated like criminals. The scene with the invalids is deliberately shot through barbed wire fencing to make the segregation clear. Niccol’s point is pushed even further when Eugene takes offence to a “Hoover” questioning him about his crippled appearance. This scene demonstrates that “valids” are expected to be treated with respect while the “in-valids” are expected to take what they are given. This idea poses a real threat to the human species, which may result in a segregated and unjust society.

Niccol then goes on to suggest that the system which determines who is valid or invalid is inaccurate and cannot determine the human condition. He does this through Vincent Freeman, Director Josef and also through Anton and inspector Hugo’s relationship. Niccol’s point is that the system is unable to determine what a human being is capable of given certain circumstances. The director who doesn’t have “a violent bone in (his) body”, is found to be guilty of murder. With the threat of a mission that is possible once every 70 years being cancelled, Director Josef is pushed to his limits and murders the mission director. The threat that Niccol proposes is that if society chooses to believe in a system with faults such as this, then we will be mislead.

Vincent Freeman is also used to display Niccol’s point of view in that Vincent is quite capable of fulfilling the job of a “valid”, despite his “in-valid” status. Due to his 99% heart probability failure, Vincent is deemed an “in-valid”. However, thanks to German, the DNA dealer, “he could go anywhere with (Jerome’s) helix tucked under his arm”. In fact, it is through the “in-valid” Vincent that Jerome is shown his full potential as a “valid”. Vincent became the navigator of the Cassini. A spacecraft whose mission was to observe Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. This mission was of paramount importance, and enough to murder for. Here Niccol is suggesting that due to faults in determining who is “valid” or “in-valid”, the best man for the job may only be chosen if he becomes a “borrowed ladder”.

Niccol further implies this through the relationship that exists between Anton, and inspector Hugo. Hugo is under the command of Anton; a younger less experienced detective who appears to have less natural detective instincts than his ‘subordinate’ assistant Hugo. Anton seems to hold the naive attitude that it would be impossible for an “in-valid” to have “suckered” an institute of superior “valids” at Gattaca for so long. Hugo on the other hand who is not limited by his faith in the system of Gattaca doesn’t seem to think that this idea is so far fetched.

While Hugo is dressed like a typical detective with his trench coat and broad rimmed hat, Anton has slick hair and a nice suit. This imagery is deliberately incorporated in the film to suggest that society puts its trust in appearance. That is to say that society trusts what they can see, which is the physical and now genetic appearance of a person. That is why society would rather have Vincent clean toilets, and see that Anton is always in charge of people like Hugo.

Niccol’s film Gattaca clearly shows that a society that manipulates elements of the human species can easily result in outcomes that we are not ready for. Society may find themselves under threat of segregating society on the basis of genoism which was shown to be inaccurate in the case of Vincent, Director Josef and inspector Hugo.

On the other hand, when first watching the movie, I couldn´t help but think what an idiot Vincent was. Here you have this extremely important mission, where every member is expected to function at top efficiency, and there you have a guy who knows his heart is going to give out under stress. So he is putting the mission, his teammates´ lives and a whole lot of money and work in jeopardy just for his personal gain.

While it is true that he is kept out from a lot of jobs he could do, he chooses a job he just is not cut out for, and pursues it with a ruthlessness which might even be perceived as criminal. Not everybody is cut out to be a space pilot, even if they wish to become one with all their heart.

Gattaca can thus also be seen as the story of the one guy that ruins it for everyone.

It is still possible that Vincent was fully physically capable of performing his duties during the space mission. Even without the pre-recorded heartbeat from the real Jerome, he was still able to run on a treadmill for the required time, without a fatal heart attack occurring.

There was also a gyroscope visible in the same athletics training room, another stressful physical test he would have had to pass successfully to qualify for the mission, without triggering his heart to fail.

Andrew Niccol’s vision in this film still holds true that Vincent was not only meeting, but far exceeding his physical potential as determined by his genetics, which specified that the chance of his heart failing was only 99%, and the remaining 1% was far more influential in determining Vincent's physical potential, and his true human potential when his heart didn't fail, and he was able to surpass even the potential of a genetically 'valid' person while still being seen by society as invalid.

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