Saturday, 19 January 2008

I didn't save anything for the swim back...

There was an interesting discussion on the forums recently about Blade Runner: The Final Cut. I love Blade Runner. That whole Rutger Hauer speech at the end about teardrops in the rain? Brilliant. And from the Final Cut DVD documentary, I discovered that Rutger Hauer came up with that line himself - my favourite line in the film. Oh, and for the record, I am also a massive Philip K. Dick fan, too (though I was alarmed recently to find a speech by him in which he suggested that we are all really living in Judea 2000 years ago - although I'm not sure why I'm surprised by this). And actually, I quite like Total Recall, too, which may be pertinent information when you consider my next opinion...

So: yes, Blade Runner is brilliant. But I actually think there is another sci-fi film from the last decade that is on a par with Blade Runner both in depth and style. Okay, so it doesn't quite delve into what it is to be human, as Blade Runner and PKD do, but still... I love this film. And if you have seen it, you will have guessed what film I am talking about from the title of this post: Gattaca (for GTCA, the initials of the four DNA nucleotides, guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine).

I just watched Gattaca for - what? The tenth time, maybe. And as always, I had tears in my eyes as the credits rolled. Jude Law manages not to be annoying (because the film was released just before he became annoying; actually, he's fantastic in it, reminiscent of Richard E. Grant in Withnail And I in the way he plays his role). And the ever-reliable Ethan Hawke is great (okay, so he only ever plays the same character, but I like the character he plays; and don't even start me off on the bit in Before Sunset where they're in the car towards the end, because I at least want to pretend I'm all manly and stuff and don't sob at just anything. And he has a decent future writing novels ahead of him after his looks give out, the talented bastard - The Hottest State is a damn good novel and by better half informs me the follow-up is good, too, which I have yet to read. Better get out of these parentheses now). The whole film is  - well, just perfect. Blade Runner uses replicants to ask: what is it to be human? Gattaca uses a very simple metaphor, which reminds me, in a way, of the beloved children's book, Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish: A man looked at a star. All he thought about, dreamed about, was that star. In Gattaca, rockets leave the earth for space and the main character just wants to be on one. It's a simple metaphor for something better. Everything from Vincent's swimming race with his brother leading to his poignant revelation that implies he will probably never be coming back, to the doctor's revelation about his own son... Gattaca is a masterpiece in structure and a true SF cinema classic. There's no real action - no shoot outs, laser guns, fights or anything like that. It's just about someone striving to go beyond their expected limitations, and the sci-fi setting provides the necessary metaphors.

To me, Gattaca - like Blade Runner - is what good sci-fi is all about: saying something about being human now, using a futuristic mythos to put into action what otherwise would have had to be put into words.

Gattaca: if you've never seen it, go watch it NOW. And if you don't like it, don't post here! (Because your opinion is in-valid.)

22 comments:

  1. Now I know which movie I will watch tonight again!! Thanks for reminding me of this awesome movie. It's been already quite some time since I last saw it therefore I'm curious how I will see it this time.

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  2. 100% agreed, it's a superb movie.

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  3. That last bit in there about the role of sci-fi as a lens from the future through which we examine the present is something that I've believed is true for a long time. I remember when I first read through the Dune books I was amazed at how much cultural/sociological theory there was in the book. I felt that the futuristic application of mysticism and transformed peoples was a valid reflection of reality. I like to remind people who scoff at sci-fi as escapist (though some of it doubtless is) that the way we imagine the future tells us a lot about how we see the present.

    Hope that doesn't sound too elitist.

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  4. I get where you're coming from,and maybe I really need to watch it again, but I found Gattaca left me kind of cold even though I appreciated the director and writer's attempt to create that rare thing, an intelligent sf movie.

    Personally, I could have said much the same thing you said about Gattaca, about a completely different film, I regard as one of the very finest sf films ever made (though some people not familiar with the sf field might be surprised at hearing it described as such, yet it seems so plainly obvious to me): Darren Aaronofsky's 'Pi'. If you haven't seen it, get it NOW. And you'll thank me too.

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  5. Gattaca is certainly quite a muted film, so I can understand why it would leave some cold, but it has the opposite effect on me.

    I 100% agree about Pi, though - it is superb. Aronofsky's following film, Requiem for a Dream, was equally superb but also horrible and grim. (And the brilliant theme music to RFAD - conducted by Clint Mansell, who also did Pi, and used to be in PWEI! - is used to advertise just about any action movie out right now.) Pi was a stroke of genius, though. Another great sf indie movie out recently was Primer - intelligent and well thought out and mind-boggling. This sort of low-key sf is the sort of sf I tend to enjoy most, actually.

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  6. My two cult movies are Blade Runner and Gattaca, always nice to notice we're not alone!

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  7. Thanks for this post! GATTACA is one of my favorite SF movies ever, despite the fact that no one I tell about it ever seems to have heard of it. It's the movie I always mention when people ask me what good SF movie scripts have been written lately. Beautiful writing, great characters, well-thought-out SF premise and setting. And, as you point out, a whole cast of actors that GATTACA caught before they became annoying! So glad to see people talking about it. What more could one ask?

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  8. I had to watch this film for Religious Studies (Science and Ethic) and absolutely loved it.

    The music in the final sequence is some of the best modern orchestral music I can think of! Maybe that's because I'm relatively sheltered when it comes to modern orchestral music but hey!

    Great film!

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  10. I wholeheartedly agree with your post. People often mistake good science fiction as just being about light sabers and matrices when it's really an exploration of humanity.

    Also I have only seen Gattaca once and all of the scenes and themes you mentioned have been deeply imprinted in my head since then.

    Cheers!

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  11. Sorry to do this as a blog comment, but I can't see any other way to contact you. The forum seems to be down. I get this:

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    DEBUG MODE
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    INSERT INTO phpbb_sessions (session_id, session_user_id, session_start, session_time, session_ip, session_page, session_logged_in, session_admin) VALUES ('c704c3031f6bc5b467412fbef8a6edfd', -1, 1203488620, 1203488620, 'da664e1d', 0, 0, 0)
    Line : 187
    File : sessions.php

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  12. when will the forums be back up?

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  13. SciFi is a useful tool for examining social constructs. It's been that way for a while. Look at the cast of the original Star Trek. Look at the casts of other shows from that era. Heinlein loved to poke at the fabric of society.

    But if you'd like to depart from SciFi and see if you can approximate that same response, try The Replacement Killers.

    And if you just have to make a complete departure for something camp with Rutger Hauer, try Wanted Dead or Alive. Gene Simmons as Arab terrorist; that last little bit with him is on my collection of 60 second clips from sundry movies. I've always liked Hauer; he seems to bring something unique to each role even if they are variations on the same theme.

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  14. It's great to hear you're a big PKD fan, Keith. I'm currently working on my undergrad literature thesis on him (and using Scrivener, of course). His life is absolutely fascinating.

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  15. Keith,

    What's happened to the L and L forum?

    I hope you are switching to some other server. This one is down much of the time.

    Will

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  16. For those who love great movies that happen to be sci fi, I would like to recommend two by Guillermo del Toro: "The Devil's Backbone" and "Pan's Labyrinth." Like Blade Runner they are visually spectacular, and maybe even more impressive as narrative. The bonus tracks on the DVD of Pan's Labyrinth are particularly helpful in understanding how disturbing visions like these (and Blade Runner) get to the big screen.

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  17. Yes, Gattaca did what it did very well and you said it very well too. It is such a well organized and fluid movie with gorgeous atmosphere. Every facet of it focused on exploring the human perfection/imperfection. What an inspiring film!

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  18. oh, yes! It's one of my favorites, too. I love its elegance too - so restrained, measured.... and atmospheric.

    I couldn't understand why there wasn't far more noise about it when it was released - I missed seeing it on the big screen, sadly , it slipped under the radar - but then perhaps it was too cerebral to be a blockbuster.

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  19. Both superb movies and I agree that their value lies in their focus on exploring what it means to be human. Currently the finest example of this is the new Battlestar Galactica.

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  20. Both Blade Runner and Gattaca are among the greatest science fiction films of all time. Though they're not science fiction, I second the recommendation for Guillermo Del Toro's Spanish language film: Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth, and the superb Cronos. Others on my top science fiction film list are Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (the original) and The Stalker, and the recent Sunshine directed by Danny Boyle.

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  21. oh, Solaris... what a great movie.

    Why do you think it is that it's Scifi genre, more than any other, that seems to address those big questions about humanity?

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  22. I have to agree with you about Gattaca - great brooding atmosphere, cinematography and sound production, etc, etc. There's a lot more going on than people give it credit for, I think ... questions about who 'we' are. There's a lot of repression in there too, is that it's theme, being something we're not supposed to be?

    And as for Blade Runner - brilliant!

    Philip K Dick was an amazing writer, especially, 'Do Androids ...' Yeah, he was pretty weird too. He believed the Roman Empire never ended, it's power was secretly passed on, to Europe and then the USA. He spotted some important philosophical and cultural concepts too, the idea of the real / original and the simulation.

    Great blog by the way.

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