Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pre-Festival Scribbling: Code 46 - 1/3

Code 46 is unusual in that it refuses to utilise the expected source of conflict in narratives about infidelity. Traditionally a story of adultery revolves around a character's choice to either continue their long established, comfortable yet possibly stifling relationship with a loving wife (and often family) or to indulge in a more passionate romance with an exciting outsider. However this particular conflict is never pushed to the forefront in Code 46.

While Robbin's character insists that he loves his child and tells his wife he loves her, the evidence for their hold on his psyche is very thin on the ground. His home life is shown, when it is shown at all, to be pleasant enough but if it is pleasant then it is also nondescript. Interactions with his family are limited to functional language, "When will you be home?" or lightly cliched expressions of an emotional bond that is never convincingly expressed. Neither his wife nor his son emerge as anything more than archetypes: they represent, rather than embody, their roles.

When contrasted against his interactions with Morton's character the shallow attraction of his home life can only feel thinner. Their conversation revolves around more idiosyncratic matters; her recurring dreams, his childhood toys. Through such interactions they emerge as distinct people. Morton's character is not "the lover". Instead she evidences a unique inner life as someone who vicariously lives out a sense of adventure, who is disappointed in the banality of most of her surrounds and who is deeply afraid of empty spaces.

The camera and set design also work to accentuate their attraction while playing down Robbin's theoretical domestic bliss. The clean, modernist surfaces in Robbin's apartment are shot with a relatively static camera. In contrast the alternating homely and gritty environments of the apartments, streets, cafes and clubs in which Robbins' and Morton's characters fall in love are on occasion shot more adventurously - the obvious example being the slow-motion POV shot of Morton's angelic, alien face under disco lights. Robbins' wife's conventional haircut, clothing and surrounds cannot, and were never meant to, compete.

It's made conspicuously clear that there is no inner torment in this affair - or rather that the torment doesn't stem from the traditional dichotomy of a stable, loving family facing off against an exciting new interloper. This is despite the case that, confusingly enough, such a dichotomy does exist in the narrative even though it's not mined for its dramatic potential. The wronged woman is a player in the story but she barely exists as even a sketch of a woman. Instead it's the more nebulous wronged state that functions in place of the wronged woman. An eminently suitable (this is, after all, a dystopian science fiction romance) but easily misunderstood substitution. (tbc in 2/3).

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