Gene Genie – Gattaca’s structure

Decoding a film’s DNA can be enlightening. Let’s look at the structure of Gattaca.

Much of Hollywood screenwriting theory and film analysis is based around the “three-act structure”, which, according to Syd Field (author of the influential Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting), “is a beginning, middle and end. The beginning corresponds to act I, the middle to act II and the end to act III.”

However, the three-act structure has its detractors, such as screenwriting guru John Truby, who believes the three-act analysis is simplistic with regard to the plot density of many films today.

Field’s model starts with act I, the set-up. Characters and relationships are established and the dramatic premise is launched.

So if we look at act I of Gattaca, the main character, Vincent, born naturally as a “faith birth”, aspires to become an astronaut. To do this he must take on the genetic identity of someone else. His relationship is established with his family, Eugene and Irene among others.

Act II is the confrontation where, Field says, “the main character encounters obstacles that keep him/her from achieving their dramatic need, which is defined as what the character wants to win/gain/get or achieve”.

So in this act, Vincent is implicated in the murder of the mission director. This gets in the way of his need to go into space.

Act III is the resolution. Through her discovery of Eugene, Irene finally unearths the truth about Vincent as Jerome. Vincent confronts his brother Anton and finally makes it into outer space.

However, according to Truby, the beginning, middle and end concept “is not wrong, but simplistic”.

Read the rest here.


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