Gattaca: There is No Gene for the Human Spirit

I like the simple idea behind this story — we have the power to control our own future. We are not victims of our own DNA.

In Andrew Niccol’s film, Gattaca, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) faces the trials and tribulations of life as a naturally-born “In-Valid” in a world of nearly perfect, test tube-generated people.

Because of genetic testing as an infant, his life — including his social class and potential career path — are predetermined. Future illnesses are predicted and mental shortcomings brought to light — even before he leaves the maternity ward. But, traits are not absolute.

Vincent dreams of becoming an astronaut and traveling to the planets. In order to reach the potential he knows he possesses, he infiltrates the elite, “valid” society by acquiring a “borrowed ladder”; he assumes the identity of Jerome (Jude Law), an injured genetically-superior aristocrat.

This identity theft grants him access to the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation — a cold world of intellectual and physical challenge in which Vincent must fight to remain, while consistently maintaining his façade.

This proves more difficult than anticipated when a murder occurs. Now the police must thoroughly investigate Gattaca. Circumstances are complicated more when Vincent falls in love with another astronaut candidate — coping with problems of possible genetic flaws in her own “perfection”.

What I like the most about this movie lies not in the acting or the special effects, but in the simple idea behind the story — we have the power to control our own future. We’re already entering an era where we can genetically enhance our offspring to create superior beings. But as the film’s tagline says, “there is no gene for the human spirit”.

Who we will ultimately become is not written in our DNA. We can find out who we really are. But is the knowledge of when you’ll die, or which is the most compatible mate really something to seek? Maybe knowing would be our downfall. Maybe there are some things that should remain untouched. But for now we can can wait and see how things work out once we have access to such knowledge.

Besides providing a creative view of the future, this film captures the imagination of those who dare to discover, believe, and create. A future where our genes reveal who we are and what we can be can make the possibilities endless and even guarantee lifelong success and perfection. At the film’s conclusion, Vincent reflects:

“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.”

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