The Circle of Life

September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

First, I have to preface this post by saying that the film Gattaca was probably one of my all-time favorites. I could not put a number to where it would fall on any kind of list of mine, but I do know that the more time I spend thinking about it, the more I like it. It legitimately upsets me that the movie was not more of a commercial success in 1997. In fact, I kind of want to go back in time to change that, but all that business about collapsing wormholes kind of freaks me out — one reason that I am writing about the movie. Being the science-fiction nerd that I am (as we all are, truthfully), I acknowledge that normally SF of any kind does not even have to be that good for me to like it. However, Gattaca’s many levels of meaning have an appeal that I think make it a quality film from a more objective standpoint. Digging deeper into the film offers up a treasure trove of insights that are not obvious on an initial viewing; for instance, I was looking at an image of the movie’s theatrical release poster, which depicts the spiral staircase in Jerome’s apartment on it. It looks exactly like a strand of DNA! I did not even realize that before. To me, a movie is well put together if little details as insignificant as that relate to its overall meaning. I applaud Andrew Niccol for such skillful directing.

Many of the film’s overarching themes have been discussed: the near-future society’s eerie similarities to Nazi Germany, the dangers of a eugenics movement in an effort to perfect our “imperfections,” and the subtle role that homosexuality might play in the film. I want to focus on the closing scene of Gattaca, something that we touched on briefly but never really explored in depth. The ending is especially effective because it uses womb-like symbolism to convey a sort of “rebirth” for both Vincent and Jerome. After Vincent reveals his true identity to the doctor, he enters the belly of the spaceship through a tunnel that is oddly similar to an umbilical cord. The doctor does nothing to impede his progress, a sign that Vincent has ultimately defeated the system and has been accepted into the elite of Gattaca even though he does not have the genome for it. There is a sense that when he returns from his mission to Titan, his quality as a person will no longer be questioned. In this way he is being reborn into the genetic upper class, from where he might use his new status to fight the eugenic system on a larger scale. Similarly, Jerome also experiences a type of rebirth, although in quite a different way. For him, his rebirth is his escape from the half-life that he has only lived vicariously through Vincent all this time. He curls up into a fetal position, just like he was in the womb, in the incinerator simply to be reborn into whatever comes next. For both characters, the closing scene of Gattaca serves as an escape from their previous lives and a rebirth into a new existence.

Hadley Wilson, B3


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