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CODE 46

About The Production
Code 46 grew out of a series of conversations between director Michael Winterbottom, producer Andrew Eaton, and scriptwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who had flirted for several years with the idea of making a science fiction film. But not (as one might expect from the team which created The Claim and 24 Hour Party People) a science fiction film dominated by hardware, futuristic sets and special effects. Instead, while being set in a recognizable near-future with many parallels to our own time, it would combine elements of a love story, a film noir thriller, and Greek mythology with an exploration of the emotional consequences of human cloning.

Now that Code 46 is completed, the filmmakers are still reluctant to see it pigeonholed as a straight science fiction picture. "If we'd described it as just a science fiction film,” explains Michael Winterbottom, "the audience would have been expecting something much more concerned with technology or design, or with the differences between now and then. Our idea was to make a love story set in the near future, in a world that is meant to be more of a parallel to the world of today but with the elements combined in a slightly different way.” At the same time, Code 46 is also a modern version of a classic film noir thriller. The detective, William (Tim Robbins), comes to Shanghai to investigate a crime and falls in love with Maria (Samantha Morton), the person who committed the crime.

The idea of cloning introduced another level of emotional complication: the possibility that in the near future it might be possible to meet and fall in love with someone to whom one was genetically linked. This in turn took the filmmakers back to the classic Greek myth of Oedipus. "Our story became a more mythic, abstract version of the idea that you can't control who you love,” says Winterbottom. "What was particularly attractive was the idea of taking a very ordinary love story, one which everyone can recognize, but then pushing it to its extreme by introducing the Oedipal taboo against sleeping with your mother. That was the appeal of the cloning element, the idea that William could fall in love with someone who is genetically identical to his mother without being aware of it.”

Code 46 therefore became a classic story of doomed love, but with a crucial genetic twist. "The original idea,” says producer Andrew Eaton, "was to tell the story of a doomed love affair in which two people are in love but there is a particular reason why they can't be together. Brief Encounter, Casablanca and The English Patient all have that shape. So that's where the idea of cloning came in, because our story became a modern version of the myth of Oedipus in which the incest is beyond William and Maria's control.

"In the case of Code 46, it's complicated by the fact that one of the reasons they fall in love is they instinctively recognize they're from the same DNA, but they can't explain their attraction rationally. I think that's very much in line with the idea of ‘soul mates' in this day and age – the idea that people fall in love and can't stop themselves.”

Scriptwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce was surprised to find unexpected echoes of an earlier project. "The strange thing about William and Maria being genetically related to one another,” says Cottrell Boyce, "is that it generates all these powerful emotions they can't quite understand or control. They don't really know what those feelings are, and they don't know what to do with them.

"I was actually thinking about William and Dorothy Wordsworth, who I'd written about in my earlier screenplay for Julien Temple's Pandemonium. They were brother and sister but they grew up apart, so when they were finally reunited it created a lot of static and sexualized feelings which they didn't know how to cope with.”

Cottrell Boyce was excited by the idea of

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