Gattaca Study Guide

Gattaca, released in 1997, is a multi-generic film that incorporates elements of Science Fiction, Dystopic Fiction and Crime Fiction. The film was directed and written by Andrew Niccol, a screenwriter and director who made Gattaca, Simone, Lord of War, and the Academy Award winning The Truman Show. It was produced by Danny Devito, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Shir, with an overall production budget of 36 million USD. Gattaca has been nominated for 14 awards and won 6, including 'Best Film' and 'Best Original Soundtrack' in the 1997 Catalonian International Film Festival.The film was given an 82% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus stating it to be "Intelligent and scientifically provocative, Gattaca is an absorbing sci-fi drama that poses important interesting ethical questions about the nature of science." Even thought it was not a box office success when it was released, it is now a cult classic that is thought to enflame the debate regarding genetic engineering." Gattaca has been praised for its innovative film techniques such as the use of flashbacks, shocking parallels between the major protagonists, and the innovative scientific overlay of the film.

Gattaca portrays a world set in the "not too distant future." Niccol draws upon current scientific achievements and concerns to create this imagined future world. The film is characteristic of late 20th century attitudes towards science and technology, focusing on the controversial topic of genetic engineering. The society in Gattaca is founded on the science of eugenics and is divided between the genetically superior 'valids,' who are genetically engineered to remove any defects such as chances of disease, short lifespans, and defective organs, and the inferior 'invalids' who are conceived naturally. The film also focuses on ideas of discrimination that follow on from this, as the narrator states " I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science."

The film revolves around the narrator Vincent Freeman, an 'invalid' who was one of the last naturally conceived babies in his society. Vincent aspires to be an astronomer and work for the Gattaca Institute; however, invalids are not allowed to obtain high up positions and are relegated menial work. Vincent works as a cleaner in the Gattaca Institute, where he constantly dreams of visiting space. Vincent has a chance to fulfill this dream when he learns about Jerome Eugene Morrow, a 'valid' whose attempted suicide, as a result of coming second in the swimming world championships, has left him wheel-chair bound. As a result, Jerome, who previously worked at Gattaca, has become sequestered to his house and exiled from society. Vincent and Jerome essentially switch places. Vincent uses Jerome's genetic material such as blood and urine samples to pretend to be him, successfully passing Gattaca's rigorous genetic tests as he now appears as "Valid: Jerome Eugene Morrow." Vincent's newly found 'validity' is enough to make him excel at Gattaca. He is asked for nothing but his urine sample, the proof of his genetic superiority, for him to gain a lucrative position at Gattaca Institute.The irony is that the invalid, destined for failure, becomes triumphant while the genetically superior valid Jerome Marrow is miserable.

The film's tagline "there is no gene for the human spirit" encapsulates the main message of the film that human drive and passion is the most essential element of humanity. The film provides a positive appraisal and celebration of the human spirit.

Gattaca is told through the perspective of Vincent, who narrates events in the current time of the film. The film is also told by a series of flashbacks which Vincent narrates. These effectively illustrate how, as a child, he was discriminated against due to his genetic inferiority. This causes the viewer to critique the society of Gattaca.

The film deals with crucial themes of humanity, science, discrimination, love and determination in a dystopic futuristic setting. It is a unique and innovative film which pushes the boundaries of science fiction to new limits.