The title sequence I chose to analyze is an old and simple one for the movie Gattaca. The reason I like it so much is in large part to the movie itself. I really connect with the idea that you aren’t defined by what other people define you as, especially if you have enough motivation and heart. My high school counsellor told me I would never go to college and would not get very far. It hurt, but it also motivated me to find my own path in my own way no matter what others or even society defines me as. This movie was an exact representation of that idea. The title sequence visualized and embodied that story in a detailed and prophetic way.
6 Key moments from the sequence.
1. Opening quote. Fr000
I’ve seen opening quotes done amazingly but also done poorly. The worst though is when they are vague and hollow, even if a good quote. What I like about this quote was that it was mysterious, but also provocative especially at the time when global warming and environmental awareness was ramping up. ‘I not only think we will tamper with Mother Nature. I think Mother wants us to.’ This goes against everything society has been preaching in a way. I was very intrigued.
2. Music & sound design.
At first, the only sound we hear is these booming thumps as these large objects hit the abstract surface we are looking at. Eventually, a very slow and peaceful score begins. When the violin kicks in towards the end of the sequence we reveal a close up of a man shaving. It goes from a deep and strong heavy mysterious feel to a more emotional and almost poetic feeling.
3. Imagery. Fr001, Fr002
Not knowing anything about the movie the very first time, the mystery of these epic and heavy feeling objects falling and hitting the ground made me think we were on another planet. Then it snows. Then a heavy set of logs fall, and little twig looking things. It is only later that it becomes more obvious that we are looking at something really close up. The surprise payoff is that the sequence ends with a man shaving his beard. We understand this has been him shaving and getting ready for work the whole time.
4. Typography placement. Fr003, Fr004
The placement of the titles is very deliberate on multiple levels. First off the compositions definitely seem to work within a centred 4 square grid. But what is very interesting and thoughtful to me is the difference of placements between the different titles. The studio, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and the GATTACA title itself are all centre-placed on a centred grid. But secondary characters like Alan Arkin and Jude Law are placed on the left and right sides very symmetrically using a thirds grid. It is clear they are not main characters. The final few characters are placed off-centre both vertically and horizontally which to me called attention to Ethan and Uma as characters I really need to pay attention to in comparison.
5. The mixed Typefaces. Fr005
The titles themselves mixed what looks like Trajan, a very traditional film title font, and what I think is interstate. A bold modern Sans Serif font. Uniquely, the only letters in Interstate are G, T, C, A which feel like both an abbreviation of the name of the movie. But they also read like some sort of code. Later in the film, it is revealed how DNA plays a defining role in who excels in society and who does not which adds the distinct meaning to these letters. They represent the four DNA bases (Guanine, Thymine, Cytosine, Adenine).
6. Negative Space & Color. Fr006
While not an exact replica of what is to come in the film, there is something to the blue emptiness of the backgrounds that feels both futuristic but also empty and mysterious. It feels kind of relaxing to watch but also a bit mysterious. Our minds want to assign meaning to everything and I kept wanting to understand or assign meaning to what I was looking at but could not. I simply came away with a mood. The colour and emptiness we soon find out are similar to the same sterile and empty feeling at Ethan Hawkes job.
It was interesting how close this particular shot of the hair follicles got to the more complex of the three grids, especially given it seems like they shot this.
7. What it all means.
Upon the first watch of this sequence into Ethan shaving, it communicates he is getting ready for work. But why? Why does that even matter? Later in the film, we reveal first that he goes to work to work towards becoming an astronaut and is frequently DNA tested to ensure that he is physically gifted to do so. But the twist is he is not physically gifted and is faking his identity. To not leave a trace of his DNA, he cuts his nails, shaves his body and face with near OCD precision, and cuts his hair so perfectly to not leave a trace of himself. Later in the film, we understand the importance of this ritual as a means of him fighting for his dreams but also fighting this parsing of humans without giving them a chance he is looking to overcome.