Nazi Aesthetic in Gattaca

It doesn’t take a genetic engineer to notice that dystopians often resonate strongly with Nazi ideology, and Gattaca especially has several elements of not only Nazism, but fascism in general. But let’s not talk about the obvious things: dehumanization, genetic cleansing, the concept of the “master race,” etc. There’s just not much to talk about there; everyone gets it.

No, I’d rather focus on the more subtle hints of Nazi aesthetic, especially in context to other propagandist Nazi films of the Wiemar period. And I specify films aimed towards influencing the public opinion because honestly? That’s what Gattaca aims to do. It may not be the ONLY goal of this film, but that’s definitely one of them. The film is extremely stilted in its portrayal of the society: our narrator, after all, has been at odds with it for his entire life. In contrast, most of the other characters shown seem to embrace what is considered “normal”: even Vincent’s mother tells him to give up his dream, and the doctor’s act of rebellion is still enabling the system by falsely giving information.

The Movie Poster for Kuhla Wampe, a movie that tried to involve many different emotions without any emotional input from the viewer

On the other hand, the movie gives enough clues and information to allow the viewer to make his own decisions about the society. There are no diseases and no defects; parents are given the chance to make their kids healthy and strong and smart. There’s no room for worrisome genetics or paternity debates. People who work at a job are qualified down to their DNA for it. Society is efficient and very little is surprising any more. All in all, it doesn’t seem like a bad place to live: if you were engineered. That the movie is thought-provoking and, with its information, invites the viewer to think and debate among themselves has a strong Brechtian undertone. Bertolt Brecht, a German author, helped write the screenplay for the famous(ly failure of a) movie Kuhla Wampe with the intent of extreme emotional detachment and intellectual stimulation.

This kind of detachment is strongest with regards to most of the engineered society. There are exceptions, of course: Eugene (clever name, get it? Get it?) is an extremely emotional character, and Anton has frequent outbursts of emotion, but most of the other “perfect people” generally have blank faces and empty expressions as they work, wait in line, or crowd around the program director’s murdered body. Even Irene, the love interest, generally shows little emotion for the importance of her role in the movie. Yes, she has her moments, but she still represents the machination of humanity, and for this reason she still seems more uncanny than Eugene.

On the other hand, the emotional connection that we have with Vincent, the one that guides us through the movie and allows us to sympathize with his plight and his problem with this futuristic, genetically-biased system, is representative of many Nazi-produced movies. For the Nazis, film was a way of emotional release. It was meant to rile the viewer up over certain issues (which were often controversial), leading them along a thought process whereas a more objective stance could have had more debate.

I could literally wax poetic about Nazi aesthetic for a year but I think this is a good question to finish it up with: Do you think Gattaca is propaganda? Does its emotional storytelling nudge you towards an opinion you might reconsider otherwise? Or is its intent too obvious?

– Kievan

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~ by kievan09 on January 28, 2012.

One Response to “Nazi Aesthetic in Gattaca”

  1. I completely agree with this perspective (although I’ve never heard of “Brechtian” perspective before, or Kuhla Wampe, both of which I found interesting). But I definitely noticed the ascetic, emotionless quality of Gattaca. Even the dialogue was ridiculously stilted, to use your diction. Who says “The wind took it” (referencing a piece of genetic material re: hair) vs. “I want to be with you”? The best window we had into anybody’s emotion happened through the soundtrack, or through scenes when someone was intoxicated. Your connection to Nazi subtleties is totally feasible here.

    -Julia Ray

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