Code 46 (4/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

This is another in a disturbingly long line of films that that denigrate fidelity in marriage, and, in some, marriage itself. Recently, Before Sunset took the ploy that our heroís wife and son back home were irrelevant to his infatuation with a woman heís had only nine hours personal experience with, and weíre supposed to think this is romantic rather than pathetic. Spike Leeís new film, She Hate Me, is about a man who impregnates lesbians so they can be mothers, as if a father is not necessary to upbringing. Under The Tuscan Sun (2003) was a film that aggrandized the idea of lesbians conceiving and raising children without the presence of a father.

Now, in Code 46 weíre supposed to be sympathetic to William (Tim Robbins) because heís infatuated with Maria (Samantha Morton), even though sheís 20 years younger and he has a wife and child back home. Maria shows no empathy for Williamís wife, even asking about her while they are in their loversí bed. William shows not the slightest hesitancy or guilt about jumping into bed with Maria. Never is a thought given to his loyal wife and child, except to call and tell her heís staying longer than expected.

Code 46 presents a futuristic world where the ozone layer has been so depleted that people canít stay out at daytime, so they sleep during the day and work at night. Because living outside the controlled environment of the city makes life hard and unappealing, everyone wants to live in the city. So that right is rationed by a privatized visa system. In order to live in the city you have to have a papelle (a pass, derived, I guess, from the Spanish, papel, for paper). If you donít have a papelle, you must live in the desert, afuera (there are lots of Spanish/foreign language-sounding phrases used in this film; afuera means outside).

William is a cop who is investigating forged papelles. Maria, who works in the office where the papelles are printed, is the culprit. Worse, sheís a clone of his mother. Code 46 says you canít mess around with any clone of a relative of yours. Ergo, the problem. Despite his wife and child, William wants to mess around. Messing around with someone who is a clone of his mother, like Maria, is a criminal violation of Code 46.

One thing I found intriguing is that there is full frontal female nudity, but only from the waist down. Maria always keeps her shirt on. Thereís even a scene where William and Maria are in the shower together and she still has her shirt on! I guess in this futuristic world, womenís breasts have ceased to be erotic. Thatís a world in which I will definitely be afuera.

This was filmed on location in Shanghai, Dubai and Jaipur, changing the area around Shanghai so itís a desert, due to the climate change. While the creation of this futuristic world by Director Michael Winterbottom is ingenious, I found this entire film to be depressing. The ambience is depressing; the morality is depressing; the way everybody lives is depressing. Thereís not even a glimpse of humor. As bitter frosting on a sour cake, the ending supports the idea that Williamís infidelity was no big thing.

July 26, 2004

The End