Final scenes of Code 46 (2003).
Samantha Morton as Maria Gonzales.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

I was exiled because I tried to cheat the Sphinx. They left me my memories. They don’t care what you think if you’re outside. Why bother? To them, it’s as if we don’t exist.”


Tell me something about yourself.


Well, try to make it interesting, I have a long day ahead of me.

     Thik ho (ok). I have una cosa (a thing) about freckles.  A sexual cosa. I find freckles a turnon. Freckled skin, it’s like it’s clothed and not clothed…There’s no freckles pornography. Women get famous for breasts and legs, but not for freckles.

There’s Anne of Green Gables.

     I regard Anne of Green Gables as an erotic classic.

Code 46 (2003)

directed by Michael Winterbottom

cinematography by Alwin Kuchler


Code 46 (dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2003, UK)

Like many people I know, I am someone who loves to read but is a terrible reader. (Adding insult to injury: I worked in libraries for five years.) One thing I’m also known for having is intentionally never taking the easy way into an ouevre, which leads me to my first Philip K Dick book: not “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” or “The Man in the High Castle” but instead 1964’s “The Penultimate Truth”.

One thing that I’ve taken away from “The Penultimate Truth” was Dick’s gift of dropping you into a foreign universe with little - if any - consideration to whether you could keep up or not. A big part of the novel consists of language being used in ways that only becomes familiar with repetition, a tactic that is bewildering for the first thirty or so pages but ultimately rewarding. The reader has to embed themselves in the artist’s world so you can understand fully what a “Yanceman” does, where “demesneses” can be found, who or what the “Pac-peop” are.

Michael Winterbottom’s kind-of science fiction sort-of romance Code 46 has a similar approach - this is a dystopian, post-cloning world where English has consumed every other language, where verbs and nouns are more often Spanish or Russian than not; where designer drugs are used freely and referred to as “viruses”; where social class is determined by either being inside or afuera. The film starts with an “official” explanation of the title (pictured above) that is as helpful as it is bewildering. It’s a Dick-y challenge: keep up, stupid. Code 46 is pretty confusing at points - I just finished watching the damn thing and still needed reminded what the hell code 46 was - but it carries a sensibility unmatched by many other films and is well cast, particularly in the case of Samantha Morton. Morton always carries a sense of mystery that slowly and surely casts a spell on the viewer, making her perfect for Winterbottom’s minimalist sci-fi approach. Time and time again he returns to the factors that make her a somewhat unconventional screen presence - that chameleonic voice! those huge eyes! that intense body language! - that rewards the viewer with each passing scene. In Code 46’s closing moments, I may not have totally kept up with Winterbottom’s world, but sure felt rewarded keeping up with Morton.

“If we had enough information, we could predict the consequences of our actions. Would you want to know? If you kissed that girl, if you talked to that man, if you take that job, or marry that woman, or steal that papel? If we knew what would happen in the end, would we ever be able to take the first step, to make the first move?”

Code 46 (2003)