A teacher tube audio discussing Gattaca

GATTACA- Themes at a Glance

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Theme: Genetics vs Nature

  • Opening quote” Consider God’s handiwork…” with the other epigraph “I think mother wants us to…”
  • Anton – 2nd son is seen as ‘the best of you. Vincent wasn’t given father’s name but Anton was “a son my father considered worthy of his name.”
  • What is natural? The ‘faith birth’ is seen as inferior to the genetically modified one.
  • Genetics is seen as making life better.
  • People summed up by DNA and nothing else matters i.e. Vincent’s interview was just his DNA Profile.
  • Use of colour blue for technology scenes contrasted with gold for nature.
  • Repetition and emphasis on collecting samples and DNA testing – technology is all.
  • Jerome’s silver medal represents being a failure – perfection is required.

Theme: Genetic Discrimination


  • Those that are not perfect are discriminated against. I.e. jobs not open to them
  • Children not unconditionally loved – Vincent’s father is disappointed in him.
  • People not taking chances in relationship – all that matters is DNA
  • LACK of trust in people
  • This society has forced Vincent and many others to be part of an underground movement using forged identity and DNA to succeed

  • Constant flashing of VALID & INVALID on screens
  • Vincent erases his name from the measuring pole as it is humiliating.
  • When Anton calls Vincent a coward, close up of Vincent’s face showing how upset he is.
  • Police raid on Cavendish Club – lots of people running everywhere, so many people must have something to hide.
  • Vincent’s painstaking cleaning/washing routing to remove hairs, dead skin cells from his body especially on the beach


  • Technology is all important and creates conformity
  • Gattaca is clean and sterile, no room for individuality
  • People labelled VALID or INVALID, all details available – quite dehumanising.
  • Fairly soulless world
  • Death of the mission director

  • Long shot as we first see Gattaca – all men wearing identical black suits and women wearing same suits, symbolising lack of individuality.
  • CLOSE UP of Jerome’s obsessive filling up of urine leg bags, blood sachets, hair and skin samples
  • Close up on eyelash hair
THEME: IDENTITY and Humanity


  • Film asks us what makes us human? What gives us our identity?
  • Vincent represents the power of motivation and fate in life.
  • Vincent and Jerome share the identity Jerome
  • Jerome proves that although genetically superior, success is not guaranteed.
  • Vincent takes risks all the time
  • What about personality? And spirituality
  • Jerome going up the staircase


  • 12 fingered pianist-extra fingers for a purpose.
  • Crosses road when he can barely see
  • Swimming races between Vincent and Anton symbolise Vincent’s journey to fulfilment – race 1- Vincent refuses to face limitations
  • Race 2- Vincent’s journey to Gattaca begins
  • Race 3- Anton beaten…Vincent succeeds.
  • Long shot of Vincent looking up into the sky and watching a launch at Gattacca- passionate about his dream
  • Extreme long shot of staircase and Jerome pushing away wheelchair to climb up second level…huge challenge for Jerome to crawl up stairs



Relationships are very powerful
  • Family relationships are not necessarily intimate i.e. Vincent is brought up to feel like a sickly, second rate child.
  • Vincent and Anton – Vincent asks Anton “Are we brothers?”
  • Powerful link between Irene and Vincent.
  • Blowing away the hair in the wind is testimony to the power of love and trust
  • The scenes between Irene and Vincent are juxtaposed aside breathtaking scenery by the ocean – love is a greater force.

Article on Gattaca by Mark Freeman Area of Study 1 & 2 Theme: Future worlds
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol
Article by Mark Freeman
Andrew Niccol, a screenwriter and director, was born in New Zealand and
moved to England at the age of 21 to direct commercials. He has written and
directed Gattaca, Simone and Lord of War as well as earning an Academy
Award nomination for his screenplay for The Truman Show.
In recent years, scientific research has unearthed a greater understanding of
our genetic make-up – the lottery that determines our appearance and physical
capabilities. The means by which we inherit specific traits from our parents, our
genes are like a blueprint of our future, determining our predisposition for
specific talents or particular illnesses. Concurrent with this understanding of
genetics have come successful attempts in cloning, and, more recently, the
ethical debate over stem cell research to combat a range of physical maladies.
Identification and eradication of rogue genes (those that could ultimately cause
malfunction at birth or later in a person’s life) is a very real possibility with the
developing exploration in genetic research. In your own DNA, you already carry
the genetic code which will cause your physical development in your teens, your
predisposition to weight gain in your twenties, your hair loss in your thirties,
early menopause in your forties, the arthritis you develop in your fifties, your
death from cancer in your seventies. It’s an imposing thought to consider the
map of our histories, our futures, in terms of our genetic code.
But what if, as seems increasingly likely, we are able to select our genetic
make-up? Imagine a world where we can eradicate the code which will give us
bad skin or big ears or motor neuron disease. Imagine a world where, through
genetic selection, you will be granted the ‘best’ of the genetic codes from your
parents. Imagine this world where, through genetic engineering, we are able to
eliminate illness, disease and dysfunction and encourage longevity, beauty and
Insight English for Year 11 © Insight Publications 2006 1
Article on Gattaca by Mark Freeman Area of Study 1 & 2
Theme: Future worlds
MAIN MENU physical perfection. It sounds great in theory. Andrew Niccol’s futuristic film
Gattaca puts this ideal into practice, and explores a society based on the
manipulation of natural genetic codes, and in doing so exposes the potential for
abuse and discrimination in a world predicated on perfection.
Gattaca is a story set, as an intertitle tells us, in the ‘not-too-distant future’, in a
world where genetic engineering has become the normal approach to
procreation. We are introduced to Vincent Freeman, a child conceived not by
genetic means, but through an act of love. He is what is known as a ‘faith birth’,
a ‘God-child’, an INVALID. His brother, the genetically modified Anton, is
superior in strength and favoured within the society. As a ‘natural’ child,
Vincent’s imperfections (he possesses a 99% probability of fatal heart disease)
see him ostracised and rejected. He is an employment risk due to his genetic
inferiority, yet he dreams of a job in space – a task only performed by the most
elite, genetically perfect members of society.
Leaving his parents and his brother, Vincent performs the menial tasks
assigned to the genetically inferior, the new underclass in a world that favours
perfection. Ultimately, Vincent develops a plan to disguise his genetic inferiority
and secure a place in the space program at Gattaca. He gains the assistance of
Jerome Eugene Morrow, a VALID with superior genetic make-up who has been
rendered a paraplegic after an accident. Using Jerome’s blood and urine
samples to pass the rigorous screening process at Gattaca, Vincent ‘becomes’
Jerome Morrow and earns a place on an expedition to Titan, one of the moons
of Saturn. Vincent/Jerome, with the assistance of Jerome/Eugene, becomes
what is known as a ‘borrowed ladder’, someone who fraudulently moves
upwards in society through the use of someone else’s genetic material.
However, a murder sees Vincent/Jerome under suspicion, whilst his relationship
with fellow worker, Irene, is complicated by his attempts to cover the truth of his
INVALID status. The murder investigation hinges on one vital clue – Vincent’s
eyelash, with its inferior genetic code – has been found at the murder scene.
Vincent’s efforts to cover his tracks become increasingly difficult and the
revelation of his brother Anton’s involvement in the murder case complicates
matters even further. Gattaca’s final moments centre on resolving the
Insight English for Year 11 © Insight Publications 2006 2
Article on Gattaca by Mark Freeman Area of Study 1 & 2
Theme: Future worlds
MAIN MENU relationship between Vincent and Irene, the struggle for VALIDITY between
Vincent and Anton, and the achievement of Vincent’s ultimate goal – to journey
into space on the expedition to Titan.
Structure and sequence
Gattaca begins with a focus on flakes of skin, nails and hair which thud to the
ground with a weight which magnifies their significance. These elements, things
we shed naturally every day, are the very clues which could jeopardise
Vincent’s success at Gattaca, as we see with the eyelash which is detected
during the murder investigation. This opening title sequence identifies the key to
a reading of the film, an identification of the things which will propel the
narrative, as well as a spotlight on the ethical issues that Gattaca confronts.
Niccol then begins the story, but notice the way he doesn’t begin at the
beginning as we might expect. The intertitle announces we are in the ‘not-too-
distant future’ which locates us in time, and prepares us for the cool, robotic
images which set the story in motion. These first sequences provide us with an
overview of the society, the routine Vincent must endure to exist within it, and
the central location of Gattaca itself. This beginning raises several questions, its
structure inviting us to make sense of the images, characters and locale before
the voiceover narration begins. This too is set up as something of a puzzle. The
voice we come to recognise as belonging to Vincent explains, in a quite
dispassionate tone, the basic beliefs of this society. He makes particular
reference to Jerome Morrow, whom we watch entering Gattaca and joining the
onlookers at the scene of a murder – a crime which is at this point unexplained.
This opening poses the fundamental questions that engage our interest. What is
this society like? Who has been murdered? Who is responsible for the death? If
the man we have followed from his home into Gattaca is not Jerome Morrow,
then who on earth is he? The structural decision to begin the film at this point
serves to pique our interest, and acts as an entry point into an exploration of
this futuristic society.
Insight English for Year 11 © Insight Publications 2006

Karen Ford
March 08, 2005

Perfection's curse

Andrew Niccol's Gattaca warns of the dangers of valuing perfection over humanness.
To perceive Andrew Niccol's futuristic thriller Gattaca as simply a story of ambition and conquest is to ignore the film's more potent power and message. Gattaca presents us with a reflection of our world, a chilling and disturbing reminder of the dangers of absolute dependence on technology.
The desire for perfection and the methods used to achieve it are the focuses of the film, and our protagonist, Vincent Freeman, embodies all that is good and evil in the attempt to be "valid". Vincent's persistence to succeed beyond his genetic limitations is noble, but the more interesting aspect of the film is the way he sets about achieving his dream of becoming one of the "right kind of people".
Visually the film is intoxicating and aesthetically inviting with its heightened use of colour, an evocative score from Michael Nyman, the masterful use of framing, the casting of "beautiful" people and the sleek, symmetry of the set. Our desire to be part of this world is logical. Vincent's flashbacks to his "invalid", albeit real, childhood are done in sepia tones and heavy, drab costumes suggesting a world that is obsolete, uninteresting and where one's potential is limited by "God birth". Conception "the natural way" has given way to science; timber and earthy textures have been usurped by chrome and stainless steel, and natural light is ignored in favour of synthetic light.
Underlying the overt perception of perfection, acceptance and what is desirable is the danger and destructive nature of that desire. Denial of natural talents and flaws, the rejection of nature and the disregard of human feelings can only lead to chaos.
Niccol's use of blue throughout the film reflects futuristic technology but also the coldness and sterility of this world.
As a creature determined to be part of this world, Vincent is often filmed surrounded by this light. A good example is the opening where his body matter falls to the ground with a thud. It is not coincidental that our first image of Vincent is as a segmented, incomplete figure, broken up by the lines of the incinerator. In his attempts to be accepted into Gattaca he is continuously reminded of his imperfection by his constant struggle with his failing "genetic quotient", his body.
Vincent's determination to succeed and fly to Saturn's moon Titan sees him change his identity, relinquish his family and his past and suffer extraordinary pain to achieve his dream. But Niccol's question is whether it is all worth it. Just what has to be sacrificed to be accepted and embraced into the lifeless and sterile world of perfection?
Like many noir films, Gattaca presents us with an alter ego to the protagonist. As the "exceptional example" of perfection, Jerome Morrow is introduced much like Shakespeare's tragic heroes, with glowing praise of his perfection before Vincent (and viewers) get to meet him. Jerome's very distinct and obvious flaw is therefore a surprise. Even one who seems to have it all can suffer equally under the weight of perfection.
Through the morphed character of Vincent/Jerome we are reminded that we are all made up of parts and the very imperfections that determine our humanness are those we should embrace and celebrate. In attempting to eradicate flaws we are becoming less human, and not even the components of perfection can change who we are. Jerome is tortured by his failure - coming "second" - and is a tragic figure who attempts to forget this by using sarcasm and the bottle to numb the pain.
When studying the two characters it is Jerome who praises, supports, thanks, forgives and sacrifices for a friend, not Vincent, and we have an interesting contrast between the notions of human greatness and personal success. In the controversial ending, having become a real and complete human being, Jerome has realised his potential to be a "champion", and by ending his life, in a sense, "ascends" into his heaven knowing the value of human life is in what we do - not who we are. But his death also raises the important question about the value of human imperfection in a society that seems determined to condemn those without the right genetic quotient.
Vincent's struggle to achieve his dream sees him learn more about himself and humanity than any trip to Titan could achieve. It is through the characters of Jerome and Irene that Vincent learns the value of acceptance and human failings. His myopic vision is changed forever thanks to his relationship with Irene, who teaches Vincent how to see.
As Irene beckons Vincent across the busy road it is Vincent's instinct and desire to be with Irene that sees him cross the road. His tools for Gattaca perfection - the contact lenses - have been discarded and Vincent is forced to rely on his humanness. Once across the road Irene's vision of beauty, a sunrise with all its golden hues, is a stark contrast to Vincent's constructed view of what is important. Irene is crucial in altering Vincent's view of the world.
At the end of the film Vincent realises that his foray into human frailty - love and friendship - have left him scarred but he has gained the "better deal".
There is a brief shot near the beginning of the film where Jerome and Vincent, having recently undergone his leg extensions, are presented in a two-shot, both "crippled" by the weight of perfection. This shot also reminds us that living a "borrowed" existence can be destructive. These two figures are changed enormously by their interaction, becoming greater "blood brothers" than Vincent and his genetically sound brother Anton.
Vincent's refusal to accept his limitations and challenge the system inspires Jerome, while it is Jerome's humanity and sacrifice that alters Vincent's view of the world. In this single shot, Niccol reminds us that technology and its capacity to construct perfection cannot guarantee happiness or inner peace.
Gattaca explores the themes of ambition and desire but it also articulates the importance of virtue, faith, acceptance and humanity. In Gattaca, as in today's world, discrimination and prejudice can cripple.
Vincent's challenge to the system and denial of society's constructs sees him achieve his dream, but his lament at the end, "for someone who was never meant for this world, I'm suddenly having a hard time leaving it", speaks more about what he's learnt than what he's achieved.

“The genetic stamp of our genes is no different to the stereotypes we place on people.

Society is venturing deeper and deeper into the development of science. Our genes are no longer only known by God, they are becoming a target into research, in which is to define how we are made. The Human Genome Project (completed in 2006) primary goals was to determine the sequence of the chemical base pairs that make up DNA and to identify the 20,000-25,000 genes of the human genome for functional reasons such as making them accessible for further biological study [1].The opinion that genes are a stamp of our stereotype is beside the point of who we are as a person. Genes hold the genetic materials that make us as a person in the sense of; family, who we are related to, our similarities and differences in traits, and most importantly of all what we look in the sense of hair colour, eye colour, sex, height etc. However do genes make us more than a human being that functions?, Do they define our personality, likes and dislikes?, If you can look at my own genes under a high power-microscope would you discover what my ambition in life is, if I have experienced love and if I have experienced hurt? Genes can tell a lot of detail about the makeup of a person, but it does not withhold information on our dreams, hopes, choices, goals, talents and desires in life, that is all part of our own persona and it shouldn’t be inherited because we are all unique.

Stereotypes are presumptions we withhold upon a person’s character [2]. The term “stereotype” derives from the Greek word stereos meaning solid, firm, and tupos (type) meaning impression [3]. Therefore stereotype is defined as a “solid impression” we place upon people without really understanding them, which is a basis of prejudice. When we are stereotypical we do not look into the persons eyes at all, we only see their appearance dimly and allocate them in a group within societies boundaries in which we think they belong. Stereotypes and first impressions can be deceitful of what kind of person someone is. For example; there is a new person in your class at school, you greet them on three brief everyday conservations yet they came off as rough, cruel, inconsiderate and harsh as a person. Let me ask you this, before you shunned and stereotyped them did you ever ask them what their goal in life was, what vocation they wanted to pursue, what background they came from? You have only judged them by their first impressions and appearance. You have not look into their soul, heard their laugh, or seen their beauty and their good. You haven’t even seen the light inside their eyes or encouraged it to grow.

In conclusion I have discussed above why a genetic stamp of our genes doesn’t accurately define who we are as an individual and furthermore I have also discussed why stereotypes are a false impression upon a person. Therefore I agree that a genetic stamp of our genes is no different to the stereotypes we place on people because they overlook who we are and do not correctly define our individuality. The only person that really defines yourself, is the one sitting here reading this quietly, because nobody knows more about you than you do.

- http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/home.shtml [1]
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotypes [2]
- Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus [3]
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===Is Gattaca a cause for hope or despair? and other points....===

Gattaca is dependant on the persons point of view of the movie- the persons immersed in the development of science is a case leading to despair and vincents case is hopeful. However the invalids such as the doctor and irene are more so hopeful and dissapointed that the are not a part of the valid class. Gattaca represents the invalids as those in our society who are not obsessed with themselves or indifferent to suffering and the valids represents those in our society who are living for science, development in genes and gene therapy who will eventually become indifferent to our race. I think the director of the movie wanted to percieve not only is genetic engineering good or bad, or hopeful or despairing, but to show what would happen to our own society if this came reality.

I would say that in Gattaca, hope is not just of physical nature but primarily spiritual, we place our hope in God through prayer. Vincent remarked on a child concieved in love [he is talking about himself], thus he gives hope not only physical but spiritual. The Doctor has hope and faith in his son whom is deemed invalid. Faith is spiritual. Vincent has dreams, goals and hopes that are driving him forward unlike those who are lost because they have broken that spiritual and physical hope such as Eugene when he incinerated himself. Hope is a aspect when Gattaca displays the human spirit over science.

Irene had a heart condition like Vincent, she is a victim of her own genetics and with everyone has a certian role that is structured in this "genetic society" and they just have to live with it. The irony in Irene is that her job in Gattaca is to identify its flaws which is fitting to her own genetics. This brings the idea of being a "true valid" because they are not all perfect and it could demonstrate if there is a class system with the valids. Say if one valid had a heart condition and another a cleft palate which would be more "perfect" than the other? Instead of upper class, middle class and lower class it could be upper valid, middle valid, and invalid. I consider Irene inbetween the valid/invalid system. She tries to be perfect but it wasn't until she met Vincent that she let her hair down (literally).

Other points on the movie Gattaca;

  • If genetic engineering was a part of our society like in Gattaca than discrimination is an inevitable outcome of that too. Thats why law had to pass the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2003 to insure health agencies will benefit people no matter of there genes. But should we have this anyway? If we never had genetic engineering we would never have these issues.

  • Gattaca represents humans succumbing to the world. It is like the abortion bill being passed and that everyone is undermining and succumbing to the future. Time changes, we change our views and opinons change but sin hasnt. If parliament were to pass a bill on legalising genetic engineering 50 years ago would it be passed than todays view? We are losing our real values from God and conforming to the world. How many abide by the Ten commandants and the Lord today? Are we losing our reasoning to what is right and wrong as todays generation? Getting back to Gattaca, this shows how time changed and morals were influenced in the movie. Like Vincent says "They used to say a child concieved in love had the greatest chance of happiness but no-one says that anymore...."

  • Medicine is not a form of genetic modification all the time, but if used extensively and inhumanely it could lead to it. Technology is good, God gave us the knowledge for it but when it is abused it turns evil and the concept of God is removed. Than we will get so obsessed with finding cures for people and diseases we will see genetic engineering as an answer for everything.

===Is scientific engineering for good or evil?===

Gattaca soley represents the ideas of humanity for the advancement in science. There is the view that genetic engineering is the futuristic investment of human life and we see be "perfect" as a normality. The other view is that God made us in His image and we are not perfect because we have fallen short of God yet we are all the same in His eyes. Is our world perfect? It was originally made to be [Genesis 1] yet sin has entered our once perfect world and has turned society upside down so to speak. In my opinion genetic engineering is an attempt to recreate a world and socitey in which everything shall be "perfect" and that might seem okay, we might cure diseases that have never been cured before, but how long will this rate of advancement last? The fate of scientific engineering is the fear that it will eventually be abused and we will be the obsessed people that want to be nothing but perfect as viewed in Gattaca. In conclusion, genetic engineering may benefit to a certian extent, but how long will it be before it is under a tyrannic control?
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Gattaca-The film background

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Gattaca (1997) science fiction drama film written and directed by Andrew Niccol, starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law with supporting roles played by Loren Dean, Gore Vidal and Alan Arkin.

The film incorparates the possibility of a society driven by liberal eugenics. Children of the middle and upper classes are selected through preimplantation genetic diagnosis to ensure they possess the best hereditary traits of their parents. A genetic registry database uses biometrics to instantly identify and classify those so created as valids while those conceived by traditional means are derisively known as faith births, god children and in-valids. While genetic discrimination is forbidden by law, in practice it is easy to profile one's genotype resulting in the Valids qualifying for professional employment while the In-Valids who are susceptible to disease are relegated to menial jobs. The movie draws on concerns over reproductive technologies which facilitate eugenics, and the possible consequences of such technological developments for society. It also explores the idea of destiny and the ways in which it can and does govern lives. Characters in Gattaca continually battle both with society and with themselves to find their place in the world and who they are destined to be according to their genes.

The title is based on the initial letters of the four DNA nitrogenous bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine). During the credits the letters G, C, T, and A are all highlighted.