The Fly (1986)

Last modified: November 8, 2018

The Fly is the ultimate Science-Gone-Mad film. It tells the story of a brilliant but eccentric scientist whose secret experiment in the field of human transportation goes terribly wrong.

Relevance

This film speculates on the dark side of science (scientific hubris). It covers a variety of topics related to research integrity, such as bio-ethics, ambition and authorship.

This movie is included in the Fiction movies for RCR education.

Key words: Ethics (medical) / Authorship
Medium: YouTube (The link was last checked on 15-08-2016)
Fragments: 2

Internet Movie Database (IMDb) about this movie: IMDb
Drama/Horror/Sci-Fi / playing time: 96 min.

Content and context

Dr. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), a brilliant but eccentric scientist attempts to woo investigative journalist Veronica Quaife by offering her a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment have proved successful. Up to a point. Dr. Brundle thinks he has ironed out the last problem when he successfully transports a living creature, but when he attempts to teleport himself a fly enters one of the transmission booths, and dr. Brundle finds he is a changed man. This Science-Gone-Mad film is the source of the quote “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” (IMDB).

Fragments

There are two fragments selected from this film that, when watched in combination, have an educational value. These fragments share an ethics section, which provides insights into the ethics underlying the fragments.

Fragment 1: [1:43 – 2:47]

These two fragments should be showed together. In the first fragment dr. Brundle and Veronica are talking at a science congress. Dr. Brundle, who is obviously attracted to Veronica, tries to convince her why he is the most interesting scientist to talk to, because his research will change the world as we know it. He then invites her to come to his lab and see it for herself.

Fragment 2: [58:35 – 1:01:14]

In the second fragment dr. Brundle has already transported himself but the experiment went horribly wrong; he is slowly turning into a giant man/fly hybrid. Veronica, who has fallen in love with the previous dr. Brundle, keeps visiting him during this transformative process. This fragment illustrates one of those visits.

Ethics

This fragment relates to questions about ambition, bio-ethics and transparency. Dr. Brundle has chosen to keep his biotechnological research a secret because he is afraid that somebody else will steal his idea and claim all credits. He has found a way to receive funding without full disclosure or reporting on the essence of his research. But this lack of transparency and supervision turns out to have devastating consequences. Dr. Brundle, blinded by ambition and with no boss to report to, ignored or failed to take into account the rules, risks and regulations surrounding biotechnological research.

Realism

The Fly is a horror film that speculates on the dark side of science (scientific hubris). It does not tell us about everyday scientific practice, but it does shine a creative light on the fears connected to biotechnological-research, especially if a scientist works on his own with disregard for rules and regulations.

Suggested use in education

These fragments give students the opportunity to reflect on the concepts of ambition and transparency. Dr. Brundle is pictured as a brilliant scientist who has no intention to do wrong with his experiments. He is driven by ambition and scientific curiosity, and even though he wants to keep his project a secret, he will publish his findings the moment he succeeds. Students can be asked to think about the following questions. (1) Can you sympathize with dr. Brundle to act on his own? (2) Does it make a difference for rules about transparency when there is a possible Nobel Prize involved? (3) Do you believe dr. Brundle is an extreme exception to the rule when it comes to transparency about research?

Ending

In the end dr. Brundle does not only lose his human body but also his mind. He becomes manic and aggressive and attempts to destroy everything that might threaten his scientific project. But even as a human/fly hybrid his previous love for Veronica sometimes breaks true. In the final scene of the film dr. Brundle, who has now become an unrecognizable creature of different genes and entities, begs Veronica to kill him.

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