Some more reading on the film – this time from Exploring Dystopia:
“As night-fall does not come at once, neither does oppression… It is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become victims of the darkness.”
Justice William O. Douglas
It is the near future, and Vincent/Jerome Morrow has a problem. A genetic problem. He is an imperfect man in a perfect world.
Every day it seems as if people are discovering new uses for the human genetic code. Hardly a day passes when there isn’t a researcher who claims to have found another miracle gene. One for obesity, for cancer, for asthma, for manic-depression, and so forth. Gene therapy is on the rise, already some people have been used for the first leading forms of treatments, using recombinant DNA, injected by genetically-altered viruses. There is even talk (and perhaps an attempt) to clone a human. Ever since the decryption of the human genetic code, a burst of new research in the field of genetics has occurred, and certainly, as our ability to manipulate our DNA increases, so too will the debate over designer babies escalate.
Vincent/Jerome Morrow lives in such a future. It is one where science, and not religion, has taken over society. He is one born of a new subclass, one determined not by race or colour or political standing or even economic position, but of genetics. It is a world where a new form of discrimination has arisen, called genoism, discrimination according to one’s genetic purity. He is one known as an invalid, a person born by normal means, whose genes have not been altered — contrary to the valids who are people whose genes have been altered to give them “the best of their parents”. When he is born a reading is taken from his blood, and the probabilities of certain afflictions and genetic diseases are read off, one after another, to his dumbstruck parents. His probable life expectancy? A mere 33 years.
Soon after his parents get a child conceived of ‘natural birth’, one genetically altered to have the best characteristics of its parents, and none of the ancient predispositions towards genetic diseases. The younger brother soon exceeds his elder, physically. Young Vincent, who has myopia and a predisposition towards heart problems, cannot keep up with his designer baby brother, and this leads to intense sibling rivalry. The two brothers are distant, unaffectionate towards each other, challenging one another to games of ‘chicken’ – a contest to find out who can swim furthest without floundering. Usually his enhanced brother beats him, but one time it was different. Young invalid Vincent saves Anton from drowning, and this sets the stage for a future encounter. Swimming and water become well-used motifs in this excellent film.
Read more here.