How does ‘Gattaca’ contrast the lives of Vincent and Anton? Why is this effective?
Although Vincent and Anton are brothers, they have an extremely different status in society. This difference is purely due to their genetic code, as the genetically engineered Anton is seen as far superior to the faith-birth Vincent. These differences are made clear in Vincent’s flashbacks to his early childhood, where his brother is given preferential treatment over him. Vincent’s parents view him as a disappointment not worthy of his father’s name, whereas they are extremely proud of Anton. This parallel between the plight of valids and invalids is effective as it clearly illustrates the discrimination within the society, as well as the negative implications of determining an individual’s self-worth based on their genes.
Comment on the significance of Irene’s character. How does she change when she meets Vincent?
Initially, Irene is a product of the society in which she lives. At the start of the film, she firmly believes that valids are superior, and that a person’s strength of character can be calculated by their genetic makeup. Vincent comments that this lifestyle has made her miserable, as he confronts her “You are the authority on what is not possible, aren't you Irene? They've got you looking for any flaw, and after a while that's all you see.” Her perspective drastically changes when she learns that the person she knew as Jerome Morrow was actually Vincent, an invalid in disguise. This shocking revelation causes her to reassess the importance of genes. This is clearly seen when Vincent hands her a strand of his hair and tells her to have it tested, to see if she still wants to be with him once she learns of his genetic shortcomings. Irene immediately throws the hair away, signifying that she now loves Vincent despite the fact that he is an invalid. Hence, throughout the film, she has come to realize that a person’s character is more important than their genetic code.
How does Vincent respond to his low status in society?
Although Vincent is constantly treated as an outcast, he does not give up on his dreams and aspirations. Instead, Vincent is determined to succeed against all odds. Vincent tricks society by posing as the genetically superior Jerome Morrow. However, it is Vincent’s willpower and drive, rather than Jerome’s genes, which grant him this ultimate success. Vincent constantly claims that he is just as deserving as any valid is, claiming “I was as good as any, and better than most.”
Why does Vincent begin to have second thoughts about leaving Titan? How does he overcome these doubts?
Days before his spaceship is due to set off, Vincent experiences strong internal conflict. This is clearly illustrated in his quote “It's funny, you work so hard, you do everything you can to get away from a place, and when you finally get your chance to leave, you find a reason to stay.” Vincent’s doubts are primarily driven by fear of the unknown, as he is still shocked by how far he came in a society that taught him he would achieve nothing. He also fears leaving Irene behind, as he deeply loves her, and is afraid that Jerome will revert back into depression if left alone. However, Vincent continues with his childhood dream of leaving earth to travel space, believing that these thoughts are just one final obstacle he has to overcome. He finds solace in the thought that he is about to achieve his destiny, as he states “For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess I'm suddenly having a hard time leaving it. Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. Maybe I'm not leaving... maybe I'm going home.”
How does Gattaca explore issues of personal identity and individuality?
The film explores complex notions of identity and individuality. The overarching message of the film is that identity is not tied to genetic makeup, and that an individual’s self worth is not bound to their genetic material. Both Vincent and Jerome are key individuals who defy their genetic state. Vincent challenges the eugenics system to discover his true potential, whereas Jerome has had his potential, guaranteed at birth, tragically undermined. In this way, Gattaca emphasizes that passion, ambition and drive are the true markers of humanity and identity. Gattaca also explores the importance of individuality. Within the Gattaca Institute there is a lack of individuality. Workers dress the same, do not interact with each other, and are almost indistinguishable from one another. Hence, the film suggests that a focus on perfection eradicates individuality.
How do visual elements and symbols represent Vincent’s struggle in society, and his eventual success?
The film employs a number of symbols of entrapment to illustrate that Vincent is trapped in a society that believes that “no one exceeds his potential.” A clear example of this is during the flashback of his childhood, where there is a closeup of a metal gate closing in his face. This represents the numerous opportunities that Vincent is not allowed to partake in, due to his predetermined status as an invalid. These symbols are also evident when Vincent becomes a janitor at the Gattaca Institute. He constantly looks up towards the glass roof between him and the departing space ships, representing the ‘glass ceiling’ effect, that is, the barrier that prevents discriminated individuals from excelling in a profession. However, there are also a number of optimistic symbols throughout the film, such as ladders and staircases, which represent his ascent to the stars.