Exploring The Technology In The Film Gattaca English Literature Essay

2273 words (9 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this

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The film Gattaca explores the possibilities of future technology development, and the way in which these advances would affect society. For example, would a society composed of two distinct social classes, and the inequality between them really be an advance? Those who are not genetically manipulated to so -called perfection in a lab, but naturally conceived, are given the name ‘in-valid’ ‘god children’ or ‘de-gene-erates’ , and are treated as second class. Natural conception in the ‘not too distant future’ is rejected in the society of Gattaca, with genetic manipulation seen as “what has become the natural way”. Due to the discrimination of in-valids, what would present day’s multiculturalism and racial diversity be in a time such as that of Gattaca? Would the importance of individuality or personal identity be discarded? As Vincent tells the viewer: “Today we have discrimination down to a science”. Gattaca’s plot and character portrayal asks the viewer this, showing us that unique genetic makeup wouldn’t matter- infact, personal qualities would be scrutinised, pushed aside and unwanted. It is clear that director Andrew Niccol aims to inform the viewer of this through such examples as Irene’s heart defect which doesn’t allow her to pursue her dream, even though she is a valid. Another example is Vincent’s only way to be accepted into society is to lie and assume a valid’s identity. Technology enables Vincent to do so, but infact it is technology that first leads to Vincent’s rejection from his surrounding world, as he was naturally conceived, and therefore is constant suffering under the burden to somehow be equally accepted.

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I believe Niccol’s message to the viewer is that in order to truly benefit from the power to change the environment, such as advances in technology giving us the ability to genetically manipulate, we first have to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of our actions to fully understand them. For instance, we must ask ourselves should equality, ambition and individuality be traded for catergorisation in an institutional system with distinction. If we were to live in a future such as that of Gattaca, wouldn’t we lose more than we would gain?

Explain the meaning of the quotes in the pre-exposition sequence. Which of these quotes is best supported by the film text?

‘Consider God’s handiwork: who can straighten what he hath made crooked?’ Ecclesiastes 7:11

I feel this quote is the moral to be learnt within the film’s plot, as it asks the viewer ‘why fix what isn’t broken?’ In the society of Gattaca, wealth determines fate; what parents can afford decides how ‘perfect’ their child will be. This raises the issue of in-valids’ separation from valids (and the whole surrounding society), and the suffocation of in-valids’ desires. This can be referred to with Vincent, as his longing to journey to space. The social hierarchy and racial differences in Gattaca therefore leave in-valids ultimately no reason to live. For instance, Vincent didn’t have high expectations set on him by his parents as he was an in-valid, but still managed to pursue his dreams- only by following society’s mould (appearing as a valid). This quote represents the idea that imperfections should be appreciated rather than dismissed, and that nature, despite its flaws is preferable to a genetically engineered existence due to its consequences. The viewer is shown that the importance of individualism in nature is too valuable and complex to be overridden by genetics. I therefore feel that this quote more strongly supports the film’s plot and character portrayal.

‘I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature. I think Mother wants us to’. William Gaylin

This quote, contradicting the previous, represents the opposing opinion that perhaps God himself is not perfect, as He created a flawed world, and that having the ability to change it means we should change it. The need to perfect Mother Nature is a temptation, which increases whilst technology continues to make this ability even more obtainable. By showing the viewer what the future may bring, Niccol is hinting that society is being constantly challenged whether to interfere with what has been provided for us even today, and that these early signs may lead to such manipulating in Gattaca along with its consequences. Surely we should take advantage of technological advances, but will correcting God’s mistakes really result in a more beneficial outcome? This quote is representing what is presented to the viewer directly through the film’s plot and character portrayal, asking the advantages of humans adopting a God-like power to be considered. But due to the “blurred line between health and enhancement” that Niccol informs us of, a constant need to perfect will always be present. So should we eliminate God’s mistakes if we are able to? Would grasping an opportunity in reach seem logical? This quote suggests the approach: ‘Sure. Why not?’

Question 3: How have the film makers established the difference between the natural born Vincent and the genetically selected Anton in the sequence that shows them as children? (E.g. camera shots and angles, lighting and symbolism)

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To convey the difference between Vincent and his brother Anton, certain lighting and camera angles are used. For instance, Vincent is conceived at the sea at sunset; in a natural setting expressing calmness. The waves gently lap the shore, also indicating calmness and serenity, and this Vincent will be a product of nature rather than a lab. The close-up of rosary beads and a Christian cross indicate that that a ‘God-child’ will be born to this couple, and that natural and religious beliefs have influenced Vincent’s conception. The fading light represents the beginning of a new day, but the viewer is given the impressions that Vincent’s birth will bring turmoil to his parents. By the doctors’ and Vincent’s parents’ expressions after Vincent is born, the beginning of Vincent’s rejection from society is immediately shown. This instant elimination from birth is emphasised when the viewer is told of Vincent’s life expectancy, a short 30.2 years, and his father reacts to this. Other negative data such as Vincent’s heart defect and ADHD probability is determined without delay to establish if Vincent is worthy of any acceptance. By only informing the viewer of Vincent’s probable deficiencies, and not the benefits, this again adds to Vincent appearing incapable and excluded ever since the moment he was born. The hospital scene uses the same low, hazy lighting as that of Vincent’s conception. This is not an expected light in a surgical environment, as it is gloomy, with the only light coming from the windows. This same washed out sepia tone is seen when Vincent, as a toddler, falls and his mother over-anxiously runs to him. In this scene, we are again shown Vincent’s incapability, appearing weak and dependent. This lighting used also portrays the characters’ emotions; for example, low, gloomy light indicates uncertainty and doubt when Vincent is born. The closing of the iron-bar gate at the preschool where Vincent is denied admission of not only Vincent’s rejections, but also the rejection of his parents, as they are made to feel ashamed to have brought such a burden into the world. The bars represent exclusion; being locked in or locked out, and Vincent and his parents are definitely being almost banned like a contagious disease from which separation is necessary. The low gloomy light throughout Vincent’s childhood is used to express that these are not bright, happy memories, but a different recollection. This same light is again used when Vincent’s parents visit the geneticist. In this scene, one specific recurring motif is referred to. This is the helix, which can be seen extensively in the structure of staircases and also the toy that Vincent is playing with. Perhaps the playing with of this toy represents the question ‘should genetics be toyed with, and if so, should it be treated like child’s play?’ The use of the helix motif within the staircase at the geneticists’ perhaps represents Gattaca’s society rising to new heights and understandings of such things as technology and genetic manipulation.

When we are first introduced to Anton, a noticeable change in lighting is evident. When his father is measuring his height, Anton is bathed in a golden, glowing light; almost heavenly, as he is worthy of praise and his father’s name, whereas Vincent was not. The set’s colour is richer and the positioning of the characters in the scene indicates that Vincent is left behind, and that his parents and Anton have formed their own family unit that doesn’t involve Vincent. Infact, he has been pushed aside in his impurity. The viewer is shown by the measurements of the brothers that at age eight, Anton is taller, better looking and has a broader figure than Vincent, who at age ten is smaller, skinner and wears glasses. Through this comparison, we are shown which brother is stronger and ultimately, which is better. When Vincent erases is own name from beneath his brother’s it is clear that Vincent is feeling the impact of this constant judgment. The fact that Vincent’s parent chose to have another son adds to the competitiveness of this comparison. For example, strengths and weaknesses wouldn’t have been so obvious if Vincent was to have a sister. The family unit excluding Vincent that has been formed can again be referred to when Vincent is shown sitting apart from Anton and his parents eating breakfast. The viewer is shown Vincent feeding himself intellectually with a book, whereas Anton just eats; he “has no excuse to fail”, therefore not needing this source.

The first game of chicken, when Vincent and Anton are children, we see Anton refusing to be Vincent’s blood brother, as he fears ‘contamination’ by inferior blood. Whilst the boys swim, an aerial shot is used, showing Anton being more physically capable than his brother, strongly swimming ahead. A high camera angle is then used to show a defeated, helpless Vincent suffering in his difficulty. Genetics superiority is portrayed, and the viewer is shown Vincent in a defenceless position, again appearing the weaker. Also, when Vincent lays out his model solar system, Anton snatches Pluto (an apple), low camera angles are used when Anton is shown, giving a sense of superiority, in contrast to the high camera angles looking down on Vincent, giving the impression that that he is the impure; the son who wasn’t worthy of thus father’s name.

Question 4: Consider the implications of the names of the main characters: Vincent Freeman and Jerome Morrow.

Vincent Freeman, being an in-valid, is not as his name implies. The name Vincent, meaning ‘victorious’ and ‘to conquer’, could be an oxymoron, as is Vincent’s surname. Freeman, meaning ‘one not to be forbidden by law’; in other words, free to do as he pleases, is not how Vincent is seen as through society’s discriminative eyes. Vincent cannot turn his dream into a reality without changing the way in which he is observed by surrounding valids (assuming the identity of a valid). Therefore he is not victorious or conquering in the beginning, but by the end of the film, he does manage to journey to Titan despite being discovered a ‘broken ladder’. So, perhaps the name Vincent Freeman is an indication of the character’s journey throughout the film’s plot; Vincent tells us: “it all began” when he first saved Anton’s whilst playing chicken. This is the moment when Vincent discovers he has the strength and determination to excel in his hostile world, and the instant he realises that his goal is possible to be achieved, he doesn’t once look back. In the end, it seems this name may well be suitable for Vincent, having the ability to fulfil his desire of journeying to space, conquering and breaking free of restraint set upon him (his family, for instance) and victoriously overruling genetic superiority with the power of the natural human spirit. “For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that it is possible”, Vincent tells Irene. Vincent journey of aspiring and determination shows the viewer this.

Jerome Morrow has no intention of seeing ‘tomorrow’. Infact he has wanted to, and tried to, escape from tomorrow every since he was “second best”. The name Jerome, meaning ‘holy’, indicates Jerome as being the desires result; a valid. Jerome’s surname may also be related to the question ‘do we really want ‘tomorrow’ to become what we see in Gattaca?’; with genetics ruling over human spirit and individuality. Would this be a new hope or burden? On the other hand, Morrow may be an intentional rhyme with ‘sorrow’, maybe not a reference of what tomorrow could bring, or perhaps it is a metaphorical combination on both levels- this is open to interpretation.

The film Gattaca explores the possibilities of future technology development, and the way in which these advances would affect society. For example, would a society composed of two distinct social classes, and the inequality between them really be an advance? Those who are not genetically manipulated to so -called perfection in a lab, but naturally conceived, are given the name ‘in-valid’ ‘god children’ or ‘de-gene-erates’ , and are treated as second class. Natural conception in the ‘not too distant future’ is rejected in the society of Gattaca, with genetic manipulation seen as “what has become the natural way”. Due to the discrimination of in-valids, what would present day’s multiculturalism and racial diversity be in a time such as that of Gattaca? Would the importance of individuality or personal identity be discarded? As Vincent tells the viewer: “Today we have discrimination down to a science”. Gattaca’s plot and character portrayal asks the viewer this, showing us that unique genetic makeup wouldn’t matter- infact, personal qualities would be scrutinised, pushed aside and unwanted. It is clear that director Andrew Niccol aims to inform the viewer of this through such examples as Irene’s heart defect which doesn’t allow her to pursue her dream, even though she is a valid. Another example is Vincent’s only way to be accepted into society is to lie and assume a valid’s identity. Technology enables Vincent to do so, but infact it is technology that first leads to Vincent’s rejection from his surrounding world, as he was naturally conceived, and therefore is constant suffering under the burden to somehow be equally accepted.

I believe Niccol’s message to the viewer is that in order to truly benefit from the power to change the environment, such as advances in technology giving us the ability to genetically manipulate, we first have to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of our actions to fully understand them. For instance, we must ask ourselves should equality, ambition and individuality be traded for catergorisation in an institutional system with distinction. If we were to live in a future such as that of Gattaca, wouldn’t we lose more than we would gain?

Explain the meaning of the quotes in the pre-exposition sequence. Which of these quotes is best supported by the film text?

‘Consider God’s handiwork: who can straighten what he hath made crooked?’ Ecclesiastes 7:11

I feel this quote is the moral to be learnt within the film’s plot, as it asks the viewer ‘why fix what isn’t broken?’ In the society of Gattaca, wealth determines fate; what parents can afford decides how ‘perfect’ their child will be. This raises the issue of in-valids’ separation from valids (and the whole surrounding society), and the suffocation of in-valids’ desires. This can be referred to with Vincent, as his longing to journey to space. The social hierarchy and racial differences in Gattaca therefore leave in-valids ultimately no reason to live. For instance, Vincent didn’t have high expectations set on him by his parents as he was an in-valid, but still managed to pursue his dreams- only by following society’s mould (appearing as a valid). This quote represents the idea that imperfections should be appreciated rather than dismissed, and that nature, despite its flaws is preferable to a genetically engineered existence due to its consequences. The viewer is shown that the importance of individualism in nature is too valuable and complex to be overridden by genetics. I therefore feel that this quote more strongly supports the film’s plot and character portrayal.

‘I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature. I think Mother wants us to’. William Gaylin

This quote, contradicting the previous, represents the opposing opinion that perhaps God himself is not perfect, as He created a flawed world, and that having the ability to change it means we should change it. The need to perfect Mother Nature is a temptation, which increases whilst technology continues to make this ability even more obtainable. By showing the viewer what the future may bring, Niccol is hinting that society is being constantly challenged whether to interfere with what has been provided for us even today, and that these early signs may lead to such manipulating in Gattaca along with its consequences. Surely we should take advantage of technological advances, but will correcting God’s mistakes really result in a more beneficial outcome? This quote is representing what is presented to the viewer directly through the film’s plot and character portrayal, asking the advantages of humans adopting a God-like power to be considered. But due to the “blurred line between health and enhancement” that Niccol informs us of, a constant need to perfect will always be present. So should we eliminate God’s mistakes if we are able to? Would grasping an opportunity in reach seem logical? This quote suggests the approach: ‘Sure. Why not?’

Question 3: How have the film makers established the difference between the natural born Vincent and the genetically selected Anton in the sequence that shows them as children? (E.g. camera shots and angles, lighting and symbolism)

To convey the difference between Vincent and his brother Anton, certain lighting and camera angles are used. For instance, Vincent is conceived at the sea at sunset; in a natural setting expressing calmness. The waves gently lap the shore, also indicating calmness and serenity, and this Vincent will be a product of nature rather than a lab. The close-up of rosary beads and a Christian cross indicate that that a ‘God-child’ will be born to this couple, and that natural and religious beliefs have influenced Vincent’s conception. The fading light represents the beginning of a new day, but the viewer is given the impressions that Vincent’s birth will bring turmoil to his parents. By the doctors’ and Vincent’s parents’ expressions after Vincent is born, the beginning of Vincent’s rejection from society is immediately shown. This instant elimination from birth is emphasised when the viewer is told of Vincent’s life expectancy, a short 30.2 years, and his father reacts to this. Other negative data such as Vincent’s heart defect and ADHD probability is determined without delay to establish if Vincent is worthy of any acceptance. By only informing the viewer of Vincent’s probable deficiencies, and not the benefits, this again adds to Vincent appearing incapable and excluded ever since the moment he was born. The hospital scene uses the same low, hazy lighting as that of Vincent’s conception. This is not an expected light in a surgical environment, as it is gloomy, with the only light coming from the windows. This same washed out sepia tone is seen when Vincent, as a toddler, falls and his mother over-anxiously runs to him. In this scene, we are again shown Vincent’s incapability, appearing weak and dependent. This lighting used also portrays the characters’ emotions; for example, low, gloomy light indicates uncertainty and doubt when Vincent is born. The closing of the iron-bar gate at the preschool where Vincent is denied admission of not only Vincent’s rejections, but also the rejection of his parents, as they are made to feel ashamed to have brought such a burden into the world. The bars represent exclusion; being locked in or locked out, and Vincent and his parents are definitely being almost banned like a contagious disease from which separation is necessary. The low gloomy light throughout Vincent’s childhood is used to express that these are not bright, happy memories, but a different recollection. This same light is again used when Vincent’s parents visit the geneticist. In this scene, one specific recurring motif is referred to. This is the helix, which can be seen extensively in the structure of staircases and also the toy that Vincent is playing with. Perhaps the playing with of this toy represents the question ‘should genetics be toyed with, and if so, should it be treated like child’s play?’ The use of the helix motif within the staircase at the geneticists’ perhaps represents Gattaca’s society rising to new heights and understandings of such things as technology and genetic manipulation.

When we are first introduced to Anton, a noticeable change in lighting is evident. When his father is measuring his height, Anton is bathed in a golden, glowing light; almost heavenly, as he is worthy of praise and his father’s name, whereas Vincent was not. The set’s colour is richer and the positioning of the characters in the scene indicates that Vincent is left behind, and that his parents and Anton have formed their own family unit that doesn’t involve Vincent. Infact, he has been pushed aside in his impurity. The viewer is shown by the measurements of the brothers that at age eight, Anton is taller, better looking and has a broader figure than Vincent, who at age ten is smaller, skinner and wears glasses. Through this comparison, we are shown which brother is stronger and ultimately, which is better. When Vincent erases is own name from beneath his brother’s it is clear that Vincent is feeling the impact of this constant judgment. The fact that Vincent’s parent chose to have another son adds to the competitiveness of this comparison. For example, strengths and weaknesses wouldn’t have been so obvious if Vincent was to have a sister. The family unit excluding Vincent that has been formed can again be referred to when Vincent is shown sitting apart from Anton and his parents eating breakfast. The viewer is shown Vincent feeding himself intellectually with a book, whereas Anton just eats; he “has no excuse to fail”, therefore not needing this source.

The first game of chicken, when Vincent and Anton are children, we see Anton refusing to be Vincent’s blood brother, as he fears ‘contamination’ by inferior blood. Whilst the boys swim, an aerial shot is used, showing Anton being more physically capable than his brother, strongly swimming ahead. A high camera angle is then used to show a defeated, helpless Vincent suffering in his difficulty. Genetics superiority is portrayed, and the viewer is shown Vincent in a defenceless position, again appearing the weaker. Also, when Vincent lays out his model solar system, Anton snatches Pluto (an apple), low camera angles are used when Anton is shown, giving a sense of superiority, in contrast to the high camera angles looking down on Vincent, giving the impression that that he is the impure; the son who wasn’t worthy of thus father’s name.

Question 4: Consider the implications of the names of the main characters: Vincent Freeman and Jerome Morrow.

Vincent Freeman, being an in-valid, is not as his name implies. The name Vincent, meaning ‘victorious’ and ‘to conquer’, could be an oxymoron, as is Vincent’s surname. Freeman, meaning ‘one not to be forbidden by law’; in other words, free to do as he pleases, is not how Vincent is seen as through society’s discriminative eyes. Vincent cannot turn his dream into a reality without changing the way in which he is observed by surrounding valids (assuming the identity of a valid). Therefore he is not victorious or conquering in the beginning, but by the end of the film, he does manage to journey to Titan despite being discovered a ‘broken ladder’. So, perhaps the name Vincent Freeman is an indication of the character’s journey throughout the film’s plot; Vincent tells us: “it all began” when he first saved Anton’s whilst playing chicken. This is the moment when Vincent discovers he has the strength and determination to excel in his hostile world, and the instant he realises that his goal is possible to be achieved, he doesn’t once look back. In the end, it seems this name may well be suitable for Vincent, having the ability to fulfil his desire of journeying to space, conquering and breaking free of restraint set upon him (his family, for instance) and victoriously overruling genetic superiority with the power of the natural human spirit. “For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that it is possible”, Vincent tells Irene. Vincent journey of aspiring and determination shows the viewer this.

Jerome Morrow has no intention of seeing ‘tomorrow’. Infact he has wanted to, and tried to, escape from tomorrow every since he was “second best”. The name Jerome, meaning ‘holy’, indicates Jerome as being the desires result; a valid. Jerome’s surname may also be related to the question ‘do we really want ‘tomorrow’ to become what we see in Gattaca?’; with genetics ruling over human spirit and individuality. Would this be a new hope or burden? On the other hand, Morrow may be an intentional rhyme with ‘sorrow’, maybe not a reference of what tomorrow could bring, or perhaps it is a metaphorical combination on both levels- this is open to interpretation.

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