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Code 46

Director: Michael Winterbottom

U.K.| 2003. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 93 mins.


For admirers of contemporary dramas like Wonderland, 24 Hour Party People and In This World, a science fiction film from director Michael Winterbottom might be a surprising idea. But then this is not your average sci-fi movie: there are no cool, blue-lit sets, no computer-generated effects, no futuristic gadgets. On a very modest budget, Winterbottom and his two cinematographers, Alwin Kuchler and Marcel Zyskind, use ‘found’ locations in Shanghai, Dubai, Jaipur and the London underground to create a world that is oddly beautiful and yet strangely familiar. The future extrapolated here is one of over-crowded cosmopolitan cities ravaged by global warming, with disenfranchised non-citizens (who lack the necessary identity papers or ‘papelles’) living in desert areas on the outskirts. So there is a lucrative black market in fake papelles, which are also necessary for any authorised travel. While investigating the source of fake ID papers emanating from the Sphinx insurance agency, Pinkerton cop William (Tim Robbins) instead falls in love with the worker he suspects, Maria (Samantha Morton). Putting his career and his marriage on the line, William also runs another, greater risk. In an age where cloning is routine, would-be lovers must beware of becoming involved with anyone to whom they are genetically linked. So, is the instant chemical attraction between William and Marie merely skin-deep, or does their feeling of being ‘soul mates’ result from a deeper connection. Fusing elements of classic film noir (tough cop, criminal femme fatale) with topical futuristic elements such as human cloning, Winterbottom has created an unusual, emotionallycharged love story that also addresses topical issues. Kudos, too, to Frank Cottrell Boyce, whose script explores the nuances of William and Marie’s taboo relationship with great sensitivity.

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