How does Gattaca explore issues of personal identity and individuality?
In my film Gattaca,
To explore personal identity and individuality, I used the technique of irony throughout the film. The audience is introduced to the protagonist Vincent, who has the surname ‘Freeman’, despite being destined to be bound as an ‘invalid’ in the society of Gattaca. Jerome is said to be a ‘valid’, and was genetically 'guaranteed' athletic success, it is ironic that he receives second place in a swimming contest. This shows that life for the valids is not suggests, and that they too struggle with the expectations placed on them by their genetic status. Irene is also valid who works in the Gattaca building, but is unable to become an astronaut as she has "Unacceptable risk of heart failure." It is ironic that she, a genetically modified valid, suffers a similar fate to Vincent, whose natural birth gives him a heightened chance of heart failure. This further reiterates that valids struggle with similar issues as the invalids, even though they are supposedly guaranteed "success."
In the film, I implemented the use of symbols. The images that appear when a person’s DNA is tested is either a cross or an infinity symbol. The cross is used to represent the invalids, while the infinity symbol represents the valids. The cross is used to echo the biblical connotations of the crucifix, as the invalids are referred to as "faith births." While religious imagery is often positive, the cross stands as a constant reminder of the individual's genetic inferiority and weakness. This is highlighted when Vincent comments "I'll never understand what possessed my mother to put her faith in God's hands, rather than her local geneticist." Thus, the religious symbol indicates the individuals low status in society. Meanwhile, the valids are represented by the infinity sign. This symbolizes unboundedness, and hence, the endless potential of the genetically superior. Another symbol would be the spiral staircase in Vincent’s apartment, representing a string of DNA. This is a focal point of many scenes, as it symbolizes personal identity in a society where you are defined by your DNA. Another use of symbolism would be the common use of hair such as when Vincent is placing Jerome’s hair on his desk to mask his true identity. Another instance is when Vincent is shaving, when Irene does a background check on Jerome as well as the final scene. Through constant images of hair particles, the film further explores the notion that the society is determined by its DNA, rather than portraying individuals as a sum of their collective parts, Gattaca shows that it is determination and drive, rather than genetic status, that makes an individual great.
Throughout the film, imagery was used to explore individuality and personal identity. The Gattaca building is shaped like a beehive to represent the current state of society where individuality is no longer celebrated, as the workers all dress the same and do not interact and are almost indistinguishable from one another. Hence, through imagery the film suggests that a focus on perfection eradicates individuality. The staircase in Jerome’s apartment is also used as an example of imagery in a number of scenes particularly when the crippled, wheelchair bound Jerome drags himself up the spiral staircase in an extraordinary moment of determination and drive. I also included images of fire throughout the film such as in scenes where Vincent burns his inferior genetic identity. The use of fire also reoccurs in the final scene when Jerome decides to commit suicide using the incinerator while Vincent’s spaceship is launching beginning to launch. In the reflection of the fire, Jerome’s silver medal seems to have turned gold as his burden of perfect genetic status has finally been lifted -meanwhile, Vincent’s spaceship is taking off and his lifelong dream has finally been fulfilled. Here, fire represents both destruction and success, and strengthens the parallels between the two characters' lives as both individuals have overcome their genetic identity.
In Gattaca, I attempted to explore issues of personal identity and individuality through techniques including irony, imagery and symbolism. Through the story of Jerome and Vincent defying their genetic state, I conveyed to the audience that identity and individual’s worth isn’t bound to their DNA but by their drive and ambition.