On the occasion of its 25th birthday, Gattaca, the retro-futurist parable in which the class struggle becomes a matter of genetics, proves to be extraordinarily topical from an aesthetic point of view and very enjoyable to watch.
Gattaca, for a film about space travel, devotes a lot of attention to the problems of the mainland. Indeed, it is a science fiction story that in the eyes of a 2022 viewer does not seem so far from reality: society is divided between those who have too much and those who have nothing, there are the genetically modified and those born naturally. The value of a man's existence is measured by professional success. An Incurable Earth looks to the stars to secure its future. Apparently, director Andrew Niccol's debut was rather clairvoyant. Gattaca, however, goes further and does not limit itself to a generic prediction of our present, it seems to be filmed today.
On the occasion of its 25th birthday, Gattaca's clever blend of neo-noir and near future has won over a diverse legion of fans. The twitter universe dedicated to cinema is rightly raving about it. Interior design blogs adore the high ceilings and curvaceous lines of an art deco set that could easily end up in any article in this year's novelty issue of AD. The soundtrack, composed by an exquisite pianist of Michael Nyman's calibre, was described by the late queer magazine Polari as 'so closely connected to the film as to be almost indistinguishable from it'. Brilliant! However, the loudest applause came from fashion. Gattaca's costumes became instantly famous in the design world from their appearance in 1997, thanks to a truly captivating vision of the future. It wasn't Fifth Element stuff. There was absolutely no lycra. These clothes were both realistic and innovative. Gattaca could have popularized today's Instagram feeds 25 years ago, and indeed it does.
Even TikTok, a platform created for a generation born long after the film debuted, pays homage to Gattaca. The most avid fanpages show clips of its protagonist, the then 25-year-old Ethan Hawke, accompanied by Lana Del Rey's B-sides soundtrack. "I WATCHED THIS FILM IN CLASS AND I COULDN'T KEEP ME, IT WAS TOO GOOD!" reads one comment complete with the ever-present typos. 'My eyes were BLESSED,' points out another. Elsewhere, Uma Thurman garners a flood of praise thanks to her romantic persona sporting evening gowns or structured skirts.
These are the clothes that populate the ultra-luxurious offices of society's elite: a group of people who have been genetically programmed from the womb to have no health defects and to maximise their physical and mental strength. Hawke, born quite naturally, belongs to the class of the 'in-valids' in this bleak and rampant social system. He acts incognito and has infiltrated the nation's space programme using the identity and DNA of a former Olympic swimmer now confined to a wheelchair, played by a grandiose Jude Law at his best. Hawke camouflages himself under an immaculate black suit to be like everyone else, but with imperfect organs unlike his colleagues: he is the proverbial Ferrari with a Ford Fiesta engine.
Each dress has a perfect fit with a glove-like fit, the cuffs fall in the right places and every detail is impeccably matched. The absolute elegance reflects the idea found by genetic engineers to defeat the very idea of disease. If you take a frame from Gattaca, any frame really, it looks like a spare Prada ad. The aesthetics of the film have also spilled over into fashion. In the press notes, Paul Andrew's latest collection from Salvatore Ferragamo in 2020 made reference to Gattaca; the film's beautiful characters gave rise to a series of razor-sharp overcoats and futuristic silhouettes full of the flavours of 1930s parties: feathers, constricting buttons, pitch-black class.
Full loyalty to a refined sartorial style does not seem out of place in Gattaca because it is an integral part of that world. The result is a concrete idea of the future in which clothing plays a major expressive role. After the pandemics and the mass recourse to a casual style, the suit is not dead as many had predicted. It exists and evolves. In the dreamlike dystopia of Gattaca, there is room for subtle alterations that give tailoring a push forward: Hawke attends a dinner party without a tie and in a suit without lapels. In other scenes, his two-piece lengthens and spreads outwards with lapels like fangs. It could be Dior, Vuitton or Jil Sander: each brand pushed and pulled the limits of the suit, but in the end kept the lines. It always remains a dress.
Even among Haider Ackermann's spacey and more extravagant suits and Gucci's whimsical Wes Anderson, the black suit is a constant in every decade past and those to come. Gattaca may see the fate of humanity among the stars, but that of fashion and our lives is tied to a sartorial style as sharp as a knife.
Written by Michael Zippo
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