Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Movie ~ Code 46

I can never resist a dystopian tale, I haven't seen or read 'em all yet, but I'm getting there. Code 46 , released in 2004, was a new one to me. I picked up the VHS tape in a junk store for $1 recently, we watched it on Friday evening. It's different overall, but still with a few similarities to other movies of its genre, and with a weird echo of a well-known Greek tragedy embedded.

Code 46 is a British written and directed movie, but doesn't come over as British in any way.

Michael Winterbottom directed, Frank Cottrell Boyce wrote the screenplay. They are both northern English guys, born in Blackburn and Liverpool respectively. (She chuckles)... the Beatles, from Liverpool, wrote about Blackburn, Lancashire once, remember:
I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

But I digress.

I enjoyed Code 46 but was left with numerous questions. I wish it had been a novel adaptation, so I could go read the detail I felt was missing in the film. As one reviewer wrote, "For at least half the movie, you need a code book a few inches thick to decipher Code 46." That's exactly how I felt, but a novel would suffice.


Code 46 is set, we are led to believe, in the "near future". The impression I got was that the setting had to be much further ahead than "near" - at least 50 years or so ahead, maybe more. Budget restrictions probably dictated that background scenarios couldn't be CGI'd to appear much different from today - so what we have is the perception of simply more of the same, more of everything in cityscapes, less of everything outside of those.

The film's theme uses current issues, current fears, extrapolating them into a futuristic scenario which still looks uncomfortably familiar, but sounds odd. Dialogue is a mix of English with liberal splatterings of Spanish, French, Arabic and other languages. It's as though characters had swallowed several tourist phrase books!

Writer and director use the Code 46 version of dystopia to highlight our well-known class struggles, cultural boundaries, personal identity crises and various "freedoms" or lack of them. It's clever and thought provoking - much more so than some other, high budget CGI-filled offerings.

In Code 46's dystopic world cities are heavily controlled, accessible only through checkpoints. Outside of the cities we see only miles of desert wasteland and ragged struggling refugees eeking out an existence in shanty towns - people without papelles. "Papelles", a futuristic version of the passport/visa are essential for travel. Counterfeiting of these valuable items has been discovered and is the focus of an investigator's trip to Shanghai from the USA.


William, the investigator (Tim Robbins), has the advantage of using an "empathy virus" to enhance psychic insight and emotional sensitivities - and perhaps also, in the process, breaking down his learned societal inhibitions. He investigates a corporation, "Sphinx", where papelles are produced. He is able to identify the counterfeiter, Maria (Samantha Morton) quickly, then proceeds to have a love affair with her. He provides cover for Maria's crimes on his return to Seattle. Later, ordered to return to Shanghai, he discovers Maria has disappeared. He uses his authority to locate her in a medical facility, only to find that her memory of him, and their affair, has been "wiped".

Greek tragedy element coming up!

Maria had been pregnant, following the pair's brief affair. She had undergone a forced abortion and memory removal because, unknown to both of them, they are genetically related. Maria is a genetic clone of the investigator's mother, one of a set of 24 (I read this later in a synopsis). But why, I asked myself, would this future civilisation be cloning humans when the habitable areas of the planet seemed already overburdened with the natural variety? Anyway, Code 46 is the rule, or law, which states that genetically related humans must not be allowed to reproduce together, or even conduct relationships. That has been informal rule in our world for centuries. We, though, have always (or almost always) known exactly who are our close genetic relatives, thus avoiding problems arising from in-breeding. Cloning, especially if carried out in secret, could open a veritable Pandora's Box on this front.


The love story between William and Maria is the film's main theme. William is married, by the way, back in Seattle, with a young son. There was never going to be a happy ending for all. For more detail of the film's plot see Wikipedia's page linked at the top of the post.

Whether wholesale cloning, viruses designed to infect humans with such things as empathy or (another one mentioned in the film) rapid learning of a language, will be part of humanity's future remains to be seen by our youngest generation, or their kids and grandchildren. Life on a planet whose habitable surface has shrunk to a fraction of that we know, through climate change or war damage, or bio-hazards, yet still with technological know-how, lends itself to many scenarios, some of which have been explored already in novel and film. It's a never-ending source of fascination to me.

In closing, I feel like harking back to the Beatles. They were already mentioned, earlier, as the film screen-writer's fellow Liverpudlian Merseysiders. With no need for an empathy virus in 2014, most (not all) of us understand the deep-rooted truth which can soothe some weird and increasing feelings of dis-ease. The Beatles sang it for us, years ago:
"All you need is love".





RIP ~ Richard Attenborough. He died Sunday, aged 90. Below, in his part from one of my favouite movies The Great Escape. I think all the Great Escapers are gone now - the greatest escape of all, one could say; some went long ago, some more recently.

11 comments:

mike said...

"Code 46" is a complete unknown to me and will probably remain that way, except for your introduction. I like the cover come-on: "deeply romantic, provocative, quietly erotic, and silly witty"...qualities all of us should have...LOL.

The Attenborough family is (seemingly) a story of successes. His parents had their own signatures on the world, as did both of his brothers. I've seen David narrate many natural science programs. I've seen several of his movies with Richard playing acted parts and several that he directed and-or produced. "The Great Escape" is excellent, but it gives me the shivers and anxiety...too suspenseful.

Happy Virgo new Moon with Mars-Saturn conjunct (square Venus), Venus trine Uranus, and the Chiron yod! An interesting day.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I very much doubt I'll hear from anybody who has seen "Code 46".
I like to keep a record of interesting dystopian movies though - and books. It's interesting to see how many ways writers can find to sketch a future world with authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial elements in the foreground.

There are few stories of a future going in the other direction.

The communal imagination must have a dark core.

I've been a film fan all my life. as a child I collected "autographed" photographs of the stars of the day - a very young Richard Attenborough was one of them - along with Cary Grant, Margaret Lockwood, Patricia Roc, Ann Todd, Clark Gable, etc.etc.etc.

David Attenborough comes over as such a sweet guy doesn't he? I read a piece by him just yesterday, on climate change. Used to watch his wildlife series back in the UK.

Happy day to you too, mike. :-)

Twilight said...

mike ~ This is the piece re David Attenborough, not written by him but involving him:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/22/the-current-state-of-the-planet/

♥ Sonny ♥ said...


I have'nt seen Code 46 either but I will if it comes available to me.
I have to admit if I don't like an actor then regardless of how great the movie may be, well, ya know:)
I know I should draw line between who's portraying the part and the part itself, but some people, even in real life are tough or me to deal with- look at- or be around.
Has nothing to do with looks, its just a bad feeling I get from them.
I got my chart done last friday by a local gal and the term "much too sensitive" came up many times, so maybe thats what causes it..

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ I know the feeling you describe, being a tad over-sensitive myself at times.

I remember when young I wouldn't go see any movie with William Bendix in it. He really did scare me. LOL!
Nowadays I can watch almost any actor without bad feelings - I must have de-sensitized myself to film stars over time. Come to think of it though, I do avoid John Wayne's old movies like the plague. Never did "get" him.

Twilight said...

On the general topic of movies - I sometimes notice that whoever chooses the movies to be shown on HBO sometimes chooses a movie to reflect current goings-on.

Last night HBO, among its offerings, had a 1999 movie "Crazy in Alabama".
http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/crazy-in-alabama-1999

Among the mixture of craziness (which involved a decapitation of an abusive husband) was an incident involving segregation and the killing of a young black kid by a sheriff, scenes of the funeral, of MLK speaking etc.

Today we see photos of a real funeral of a real black young man, murdered by a member of the police force.

Hmm.

mike (again) said...

Thanks for the "David Attenborough: The Truth About Climate Change"...I'll view the video very soon. Even the synopsis article about the video was interesting. I did a quick search of this video and I don't see it as a PBS "Nature" or "NOVA" program, sorry to say. I wonder why?

Unfortunately, most of the climate change essays and videos are supportive for us believers, but the doubters don't seem to read or watch, only criticize.

One of my neighbors recently made an anti-climate change comment, because we were discussing the recent cooler temperatures up north in the Midwest. I told her that she need only look to the melting glaciers and polar caps to discern the looming catastrophe, regardless of the Midwest temperatures. Maybe as Hunziker's article states, it's simply too overwhelming and easier to be doubtful, even when witnessing the effects staring us down.

Climate change sorta blends right in with sundry topics waiting for us down the road. The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" and complementing "Atlantic Patch"...the Pacific patch is thought to be twice the size of the USA! Radiation from Fukushima and other repositories. Toxins galore on our land masses in the name of agriculture. Too numerous to list all of them and I suppose there are plenty that we haven't realized yet waiting to be reckoned.

I previously thought that I'd be long gone before the severity set-in, but it seems to be crashing-in around us faster than anticipated. Words and thoughts can never convey what awaits.

Good thing you enjoy dystopian futures, Twilight...we seem to be living a dystopic present...LOL.

mike (again) said...

Re "Crazy in Alabama"...have you been watching the Videodrome channel again?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videodrome

Correction...not a Chiron yod today, but a Uranus yod.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Indeed - the jig-saw pieces of life are slowly joining up to display a vision of a dystopia of sorts - our sort.

LOL! We don't have Videodrome in our package unless our service provider slipped it in as part of a recent money-grubbing re-hash. But the movie last night sure had an eerie kind of vibe... really more of a "plus ça change" kind of feel though (film set in the 1960s) :-)

Kaleymorris said...

Yay for you and your Beatles reference!

Twilight said...

Kaleymorris ~ Yesterday's post?

Fitted in rather well I thought. :-)