Gattaca Film Analysis
The film Gattaca presents a world in the “not too distant future,” where human beings are judged and defined solely by their genetic make-up, a world in which the scientific determination of one’s existence is placed over faith, religion, and free-will - Gattaca Film Analysis introduction. Parents have the ability to choose their children’s genes and can essentially create the “perfect” child through ensuring that their best hereditary traits are passed on. Those who are conceived naturally are referred to as “God-children”, children of “faith” or “invalids”, and are viewed as inferiors, doomed to second class society.
Vincent Freeman and Jerome Morrow, Gattaca’s two main characters, defy this scientifically predestined world, and through one another are able to triumph over the limitations that society sets forth for them. Vincent, a man of imperfection, defies all odds and triumphs over all expectations. From birth, Vincent is considered to possess numerous health risks, including a heart defect, which leads the doctors to conclude that he will not live past the age of thirty. From the time that he could conceive the idea, Vincent dreamed of traveling to space.
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However, due to the fact that he was a “God child,” and because he possessed inferior genes, he was considered to be unworthy of a career of high standards and intellect such as that of space exploration. He manages to reach his dream of being an astronaut by impersonating a genetically superior “valid,” whose name is Jerome. Jerome was a once highly acclaimed swimmer, but broke his back after walking in front of a car while attempting to commit suicide after a “disappointing” second place finish at a championship swim competition.
Vincent essentially pays Jerome for his identity, and through using his “valid” DNA (hair, urine, blood, tissue samples), he manages to pass screening and is accepted to work at Gattaca Aerospace Corporation; it is evident that the one factor that determined Vincent’s career as a space explorer was his genes, not his character or work ethic/morals. Vincent’s mental strength and determination to over-come societies’ obstacles are evident throughout the movie. For example, in order for Vincent to pass as a “valid”, he not only had to impersonate Jerome by using his DNA, but he also had to physically alter his appearance.
During this physical transformation, Vincent undergoes a knee-extension surgery to increase his vertical height, as Jerome was naturally a few inches taller (previous to when he was in a wheelchair). Post-surgery, Vincent appears to be in a crucifix position, possibly serving as a representation of Jesus’ sacrifice for Man, and the cross that Jesus’ was nailed to. This biblical reference ties in the ideas of faith and religion, showing that Vincent was willing to suffer, just as Jesus Christ suffered, in order to make his unparalleled journey to the planets and stars.
Not only does Vincent’s sacrifice during his physical alteration stand as a personal sacrifice, but also as a sacrifice on behalf of all the other invalids. Vincent is, just as Jesus Christ is, the “savior” for the invalids; he is their voice and their leader. In fact, Vincent is even a role model for other invalids, such as Leon’s son, shown when Leon comments to Vincent about how his son so dearly looks up to him. The significance of the relationship between Vincent and Jerome is shown in several scenes throughout the movies entirety.
During Vincent’s impersonation of Jerome, Vincent develops a sense of hopelessness and doubt. He becomes convinced that their plan will be uncovered and that everything they had worked toward will be for nothing. It is solely through Jerome’s words and comforting that Vincent gains back the faith in himself and Jerome. When the both of them get drunk, Vincent must take care of Jerome considering the fact that he is not able. When Vincent is putting Jerome to bed, he emphasizes how much he thinks of Vincent and proud of him he is.
This moment is a turning point for Vincent in which he comes to the decision that there is no turning back and that their plan will and must succeed. Without Jerome, Vincent would have eventually lost all hope for succeeding. Jerome is there for Vincent in his time of need at the same time that Vincent is caring for him in his drunken state. This scene helps to further develop the endearing relationship that they develop for one another. In one of the final scenes of the film, Jerome must pull himself up his helix-shaped staircase.
Just as Vincent sacrifices himself during his physical alteration, Jerome’s sacrifices amount to success during his struggle up the staircase. This scene stands as a true example of irony; despite Jerome’s genetic advantages and high-class athletic ability, he is no longer able to stand at the top of the DNA chain and must remain in the lower levels of society because of his physical disability. Jerome’s actions here are given urgency by the fact that he has given up so much, and literally given up much of himself and his life to Jerome, that it must not be for nothing He manages to make it to the top of the staircase solely by
sheer determination and personal faith, just as Vincent is able to conquer the genetic helix that he faces and make it as a space explorer for Gattaca. Additionally, in the final scene, Vincent’s blast-off into space and Jerome’s suicide in the incinerator are intertwined. Both situations are viewed as triumphant, but in contrasting ways. Vincent’s victory of finally obtaining his goals is an obvious triumph over the expectations placed upon him by society, while Jerome’s death brings an odd sense of closure and final destiny.
Around Jerome’s neck hangs his second place medal; in the glow of the blaze, it is seen as gold. This represents the fact that Jerome has finally gained a sense of self-importance and significance through his interactions with Vincent; his journey from an alcoholic with nothing but trenchant hopelessness to a confident man who feels as if he has finally achieved a purpose through Vincent could not be better displayed than by this last scene.
Gattaca is not only an entertaining sci-fi, but it is also ethically liberating through its message of redemption of oneself, from society, by personal free-will and sacrifice of blood (both literally and figuratively); as expressed in the film, one’s will and soul is the ultimate deciding factor for existence, not the genetic make-up determined by scientific alteration. Gattaca stands as a true testament for the strength of free-will and the endless possibilities that arise through sacrifice and determination.