Technologies of Imitation
and the Genetic Imaginary
When we first see the figure of the genetically selected, almost biologi-
cally perfect Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law) in Gattaca (Andrew
Niccol, 1997) he appears from behind a concrete pillar in his wheelchair,
in long shot, moving to share the center of the frame with the base of an
imposing spiral staircase. The design of the spiral plays upon an associ-
ation with the now familiar twisted structure of dna: the double helix.
Positioned at the foot of this staircase, flanked by a gray column on ei-
ther side and rhymed with its green tones and metallic sheen, the figure
in the wheelchair is an integral element of a mise-en-scène governed by
the pleasures of symmetry and repetition that give a sense of genetics
as sequence on the cinema screen. In this vast, bare, stylishly modern-
ist apartment, the wheelchair sits precisely at the place where the spiral
staircase begins, so that, at the moment we first encounter Jerome, the
visual integrity of the two technologies underscores the cruelty of their
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