443/646: Architecture and Film
Blade Runner (1982)
Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: email@example.com I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.
YOUR IMAGES ARE ABOVE YOUR NAME.
updated 23-dec-07 9:35 AM
Blade Runner depicts the 21th century as very bleak and despairing.
The city appears to be floundering within a state or dystopia. Los
Angeles – as we only are told this at the beginning of the film – is
essentially an urban wasteland. The only visible is that of flames
and artificial light; the city is in complete darkness. The city’s
canopy is dark and thick. The pollution in Los Angeles is so terrible
that no natural light is strong enough to pierce its dense shroud.
Because of this amalgamation of zones within the city limits, and no visible view any of Los Angeles’ known landmarks, there arises this feeling of the uncanny, where the audience cannot identify themselves in Los Angeles only thirty years into the future. In the entirety of the film, there is rarely any signage visible written in English (note the third still image) with the exception of large global organisation such as TDK, Coca-Cola and Budweiser. It becomes ever more difficult for the audience relate to the city. The film setting(s) try endlessly to shroud the city is confusion and shadow, creating a vision of the uncanny.
In Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner all scenes appear to be set in
a dark and damp environment, the entire movie is dark, literally and
thematically. The film set in a dystopian Los Angeles of the not so distant
future. The urban landscapes (clearly derived from dense urban metropolises
with bright lights and invasive advertising like that of Hong Kong or
Tokyo) are a credible picture of a high tech future. Visions of industrial
nighttime landscapes are always painted dark and oppressive often including
steam from sewers to stimulate the other senses towards the probability
that this is a cold, unhealthy, sticky and possibly smelly environment.
The ground level streetscapes recall the sub levels of Lang’s metropolis
on a far greater scale. In fact it would appear that many stylistic mood
choices of the film were derived from Lang’s Metropolis. In the
film it would appear as though most shots of existing streetscapes are
taken from above in order to keep in check the vast height of the city
depicted. In this way it does appear to reflect the sub zones although
the streets are still considered grade. I personally always find
myself instilled with a strong sense of the uncanny at the complete absence
of natural life in a futuristic depiction. The lack of any natural world
with which to identify leaves a feeling of despair and a high level of
tension between the past, present and future in general. The invasive
advertising almost feels comforting in this society as it is something
we can relate to and find reference to normality of life whereas the
last of nature leaves questions of our environment’s future, in
a place where personal pets are genetically engineered this then leads
to questions of humanity and morality. This film portrays society at
a sophisticated level of technology and engineering and many of the settings
are high tech and gleaming, shining hope, but all of this is juxtaposed
with rot and decay of existing buildings. It is a retrofitted future
in which Urban artifacts of our current time (like the Bradbury building
to Los Angeles) are still included in the future. No society destroys
their own greatest works. But leave them intact as a testament to the
future. These artifacts obtain monumentality but as apparent in the film
the new pushes past the old, and hence the old is brought into decay
and left to the dredges of time, particularly in a world where growth
is directed upwards and the limits of the past are left in the past.
The interior of the building is completely different from its present
state in reality. The real Bradley Building is a pristine 19th century
building that has exuberant skylights letting in gracious amounts of
daylight with intricate metal detailing all over it. It is quite a lovely
building. However in Blade Runner, it has become an abandoned building
in disrepair inhabited by an asocial android designer.
Photographs capture a moment in time and freeze that instant, but in
this movie they are used to enforce falsities rather than preserving
a moment in time. Despite the fictional nature - of which some of the
replicants are unaware - of their memories, they perceive these “false
memories” emplanted within them to be real. Memories exist purely
in our minds, and photographs merely remind us of them. There is little
difference between a memory of an actual event and a memory of something
that didn’t take place. A memory of a dream may be recognized as
such, but you remember it the same way you would remember any waking
experience. There is of course a distinction between memories and fabricated
memories in regards to the actual physical happening of the event, but
after the event is over, there is nothing left but the memory, making
a memory of the physical event just as real as a memory of the fictional
The portrayal of technological advances in Blade Runner is characterized by the strong correlation between technology and everyday life. Ridley Scott meticulously constructs visions of technological advancement through objects of varying scales, from large buildings to small gadgets. This particular attention to detail heightens the sense of realism that allows the audience to relate more strongly with the environment created in the movie.
The director emphasizes the visual impact of the visionary world by intermingling futuristic technology with objects of everyday life. Like in Tezuka’s Metropolis, this interplay of contemporary and futuristic elements creates an ambiguity in the movie’s chronological setting. This ambiguity creates a notion that the society in Bladerunner is plausible and a realizable dream. This interplay also gives a tactile quality to the movie by associating the qualities of appliances that are contemporary to the audience to the gadgets of the future as portrayed in the movie.
This method in which technology is depicted in Bladerunner is distinct in comparison to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The focus in which technology is depicted in Bladerunner, through the use of gadgets, is to endow realism to the futuristic vision of the movie, however, in Metropolis, technology is used in symbolic terms that do not associate with activities of everyday life. Consequently, Metropolis lacks the sense of believability that renders itself as a mere fantasy..
efforts by Ridley Scott in trying to convey a believable vision of the
future also created dilemma in sufficing for the incomplete view of the
future. The actual world of the future would hold no likeness to our
own, thus in trying to create a complete vision of the future, there
would be a complete disjunction between the audience and the movie. In
his attempt to create a more believable and tactile visuals, the Ridley
Scott sacrificed the true vision of the future that he wanted portray
by finding the middle ground through the mediums of gadgets. However,
it is this emphasis on realism that creates a strong sense of uncanny
in the audience by exploiting the idea that a world of Bladerunner may
one day become our own.
In the film, Blade Runner, the director utilizes the eyes as a significant symbol in bringing its viewers to ponder upon the main theme dealing with complications between religion and moral implications concerning the increasing human mastery of genetic engineering though technological advancement. One of the very first scenes of the film is used to indicate the relationship between the theme of religion and theosophy as viewers see an eye which reflects the flames coming out from the chimneys of the dark, industrialized city then on the next scene exposed to the Tyrell building and then to a scene where the eyes reflecting both the flames and the building which has a pyramid shape. The eyes in these scenes represents an all-seeing eye, a freemasonic symbol representing the Great Architect of the Universe that derives from an Egyptian symbol called the eyes of Horus- the eye of the Egyptian god Osiris. In this sense, the movie is shown in the perspective of God from its start. But the eye appears to be damaged; full of spots and cataracts and even the reflections do not seem to occur normally. Such might infer that we might be watching the movie in the view of an artificial God, which then indicates that the world viewed in the film is of artificial quality- lacking the spirit of humanity in general. Another symbolism is the concept of memory and its linkage to vision or the eyes. Rachael, a replicant, remembers her childhood memories, in most cases involve visual information but since her memories are implanted data, which make her memories fake, then her character formed by memories and her behavior brought out by her character, as well as her vision are all fake and deceptive. In other films, such as Metropolis, the robots have eyes with dilated pupils, those of which almost seems to have no living qualities or soul to them. Similarly in Blade Runner, the replicants have eyes that are unreal as they glow. The eyes are symbolic of soul and truth in some sense, as we generally communicate more than seventy percent by eyes rather words; “ Look at me in the eyes when you tell me the truth.” In this sense, the robots in the film Metropolis and Blade Runner represents beings without a true perception and or soul. The androids in the film relates to the Uncanny Valley theory as they are so convincingly human yet lacking in empathy that they are considered dangerous and banned on earth.
Blade Runner incorporates various lighting techniques to create high contrasts between light and shadow to determine what is exposed versus hidden, and the dynamic movement of light and smoke to depict the futuristic Los Angeles as a dystopic, haunted, uncomfortable city that is a result of intense exploitation of technology leading to overpopulation, squalor and immorality. Shafts of light were used throughout the film’s interiors; particularly in Deckard’s apartment. The effect is darkened interior spaces that would naturally create a sense of unease due to obscurity. The spaces are revealed slowly and gradually through the beams of light moving across and through them. This also means the viewers are not given the opportunity to ever see the entire interior space illuminated all at once, for as one area is revealed the last one sinks back into darkness creating a strong sense of mystery and a fear of the unknown. The concept behind these shafts of light was the idea that the entire city was under perpetual surveillance by the authorities of the city via airships that would float in the night emitting strong light beams in rhythmic swinging lights similar to the searchlights of helicopters. This implies a futuristic world that consists of stringent criminal enforcement through authoritarian control and surveillance, to the extent of a severe invasion of privacy. Shafts of lights were further intensified when the concentration and density of smoke in the air increased. Thus, smoke in the air has a two -fold purpose; to define the shafts of light and to create an overall hazy, obscured environment. The unnatural intense amount of smoke constantly swirling about in the air, is also reflective of high levels of pollution of this dystopic futuristic city. To create a high contrast between lighting effects, most scenes – particularly those with actors in them, were harshly backlit with very subtle and soft frontal uplighting. This then depicts the actors in silhouettes that rarely reveal their facial expressions – giving each character a sense of mystery, in that their thoughts and expressions are only minimally revealed, making it difficult for viewers to determine their motives and intentions. The lighting scheme in Blade Runner is highly theatrical and is a major tool in creating a disturbing atmospheric condition to accompany the plot of the film. The roaming shafts of light and the swirling of the smoke illustrate the dynamic movement of light that is used to create a disorienting and uncomfortable effect, while the intense light and shadows contrasts is used by the moviemakers to be selective about what is revealed versus what is concealed and left in obscurity to further the unsettling, plot of the film.
The use of neon light in Blade Runner colors the environment of the film while the use of neon and advertising contribute to a sense of unease generated by the juxtaposition of the familiar image of advertising with the dark, colored light of the sets. The colored light and information density created by the signage are primary components in setting the mood of the movie and fabricating the cyberpunk aesthetic read from Philip K. Dick’s original story and seen in Ridley Scott’s influences: The Long Tomorrow, illustrated by Moebius, and the magazine Métal Hurlant.
Often neon lighting is the only visible lighting and the colored light is the dominant color in the scene. The frequent use of the color blue, for example, creates a cold and alienating environment where it is used, in the grade-level scenes. During views of the larger city seen from higher up, the lighting contains more colors and approximates natural or incandescent light. These warmer colors of light, in contrast to the blues of the lower levels, indicate the wealth and luxury and also decadence and decline of the inhabitants of the upper levels, epitomized by Tyrell’s fantastically luxurious apartments and his view of the setting sun far above the city. The difference in lighting by social and literal height and the movement between levels creates a feeling of unease, especially descending into the depths and the hostile labyrinth of the surface streets.
The effect of the use of signage in the film is that an uncanny feeling is created by the juxtaposition of familiar images presented in altered contexts. The Budweiser logo sign, for example, is a recognizable image nestled in the strangeness of the neo-Asian restaurant. The restaurant’s blue dragon, a generalized image of restaurant signage, also has this effect when viewed in the unfamiliar street environment. The image of the Coca-Cola light display is itself usual, but becomes unusual when applied at such a geologic scale. The low level of lighting from the signs also generates a visual comparison to film noir, which was an influence on the French illustrator Moebius’ (Jean Giraud) images for The Long Tomorrow and Métal Hurlant, which were both strong visual influences for director Ridley Scott and the initial concept work done for Blade Runner.
The fact that the brands and logos are familiar also creates the effect of information overload, wherein the backgrounds to the plot contain recognizable fragments of information that compete with the plot for the attention of the viewer. This saturation, combined with the futuristic feel of the lighting and the commonness of the subject of the advertising are used to construct the high-tech, low-life atmosphere of cyberpunk culture.
In Blade Runner we are taken to a distant future world. The film begins at the scale of the city. The audience is taken through a series of shots of the massive and dense metropolis from above. This is followed by a scene of Harrison Ford eating at a street vender. The act of eating is used to zoom the audience in from the city scale to the human scale. This occurs because eating is a very intimate act we have all experienced many times. The atmosphere of the scene is immediately transformed because our own memories are triggered. We know what a steamy asian restaurant is like. We analyze what occurs at a more intimate level in the context of a meal. Since dining is a very social act, we give more attention to the particulars of human interaction, the tone of voice, the expected reactions, and the consequent feelings. Although, the reality of life in LA in 2019 seems very different, distant and futuristic, eating makes it a very human world.
Eating also plays a role in the plot since we are constantly questioning, following the thought process of the main character, which characters are human and which are "non-human". The majority of the audience immediately assumes that anyone who ingests organic matter for sustenance must be human. Thus, later in the film, when we observe "non-humans" eating and drinking, we have a greater understanding of just how human these "non-humans" are.
I think the depiction of eating initially creates feelings of comfort since it is much more familiar and comfortable then what is portrayed in the scenes preceding it. However, this homely feeling is short lived since the act occurs in a manner so different then the standard family dinner, the reference case for the majority of the audience. All the dining scenes in the film are chaotic, fast-paced, busy, and eclectic, therefore making the dining experience unhomely.
The role of rain in Blade Runner is prominent in creating the atmosphere of the industrial wasteland of the future Los Angeles. The constant downpour is exemplary of the psychological and physical decay of this city and provides the unsettling feeling of discomfort of the miserable, dark setting.
Without the constant wetness, the film would have not had the same impact. Darkness plays a very prominent role, and rain provides the final constant element that enforces the discomfort and restlessness of the Blade Runner environment. The incessant movement of people running through the dark, wet streets gives an unsettling feeling – it creates a place that is void of homeliness, shelter, comfort and rest. In conjunction with the fire and smoke, rain and darkness enhance the density and dirtiness of the city, obscuring visibility in the streets and making each character seem as though they are constantly weeping. In hopes of running to a warm place to hide from the dreary atmosphere, characters can only find shelter in dark, cold interiors, often still dripping with the morbid environment of outside. James Sebastian’s house is accessed by a hallway complete with the puddles and constant leaks, barely lit by the artificial light from outside. The interior of Eye Works takes discomfort to the next extreme as the interior drips in subzero temperatures. Dark, cold and dreary, the world in Blade Runner is void of any trace of warmth or comfort; the city has no chance of feeling the elation of sunshine producing the dystopia where there is no hope left.
Beyond the atmospheric effects of the ceaseless downpour, an interesting reference to rain is made in the last words of Roy Batty, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” Perhaps rain is not simply an atmospheric component of the film, but also holds a deeper meaning. On the other hand, when Ridley Scott was questioned why he had the constant rain in his film, he responded, “because you can't make a spinner fly without a crank. That's why it was raining in the shot, to hide the cables."
The architecture of the Tyrell Corporation’s Headquarters in the
film, Blade Runner, is beyond human perception; the buildings are sublime,
inspiring awe absurdity. This future architecture is so immense
in scale that it no longer has the ability to relate to humans. Furthermore,
Blade runner and films such as Metropolis 1927 and Metropolis 2001, all
describe the ideal form of a skyscraper city in order to create a utopian
Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner is set in a dystopic Los Angeles of
2019. While the existence in this location is still familiar as city
life, there are many new conditions placed on life in this setting. The
most prominent one is the existence of replicants; artificial humans
who are designed for off-planet combat and exploration. The existence
of artificial intelligence, as well as futuristic elements like flying
cars, etc, clearly put us somewhere in the future, in a new way of life,
strange to our own.
The use of depth of field and change in focus allows the director to convey or introduce characteristic dualities that help convey the theme of the movie. The theme of the movie is mainly about the struggle between the boundaries set by society on the classification of human and non-human. The film asks us to consider what does it really mean to be human and at what point do we differ from our creation.
The use of depth and change in focus is used in key frames to imply the main character's struggle with these questions. For example, the second image selected is of the main character and the protagonist at the end of the movie when the main character realizes that his enemy is embraces and accepts his death during his final moments. The change in focus allows the viewer to be conscious of both facial expression at once and creates a smoother transition between close-ups. The blending of the shots also hints at the underlying theme that we are not that different from our creations in terms of weathering in time no matter how far removed we are from its actual biology.
The techniques used to increase detail in Blade Runner are conveyed
with the use of camera techniques while in Metropolis 1927 makeup techniques
are used to achieve the same effect. In Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
the real Maria is soothing and peaceful, her face is clear and easy to
read but the evil Maria is rendered with dark eyeliner, and more wild
expressions and movements.
In Blade Runner, all the animals present are robots or “replicants”. In terms of the plot of the film, this element of mechanized animals, or “animoids”, helps develop the state of the world in the 2019. In reference to the first image, Deckard asks Rachel if the owl is real, to which she replies, “Of course it is”. She then states that it is “very” expensive. In the next image, we can see another synthetic animal, a python. It is possible to assume that animals in 2019 are very rare and perhaps almost extinct. This could be a result of environmental conditions and the general impact of humans on nature. Scott’s depiction of LA involves no natural space and is reminiscent of a giant landfill, with methane spewing from its towers. Furthermore, introducing the owl early in the film allows us to understand how deep genetic replication has reached. Using a real animal for filming further enhances this effect. In the scene where Deckard has the snake scale analyzed, the scale is seen at a microscopic level with a serial number etched in the cells. While the animals are stated to be artificial, it begins a discussion whether or not they are considered to be alive. This develops an idea of the uncanny. While the animals appear to be real, we are told they are artificial. At times, the eyes of the owls have a reddish glow about them, but it is slight enough that we are unsure if it is an effect or simply the lighting. It creates an unhomely feeling of something that may seem familiar that is not as it is. At the end of the movie we are not sure whether the dove is real or not. In every other scene with animoids, they are seen in captivity with humans ensuring that they do not lose their expensive hardware. However, at that point of the movie it doesn’t seem matter, as the dove becomes more of a symbol of freedom and peace. Yet in retrospect, it is uncanny be unsure of such a simple element in a film.
In the 1927 film Metropolis the cars form large highways criss crossing
the cities net work. Transportation does not take part in the storyline
directly and is only shown in large views of the city to create a metropolitan
feel. In the 2001 version of Metropolis, transportation is also not a
big factor in the storyline and is only seen briefly. We mainly see the
main characters getting about on foot and the only transportation that
we see are the elevators between levels, and Duke Red’s car.
Film Architecture: Set Designs from Metropolis to Blade Runner, edited by Neumann, Dietrich, 1999, Prestel Verlag
Specifically pg 44-47, “Like Today, Only More So”; The Credible Dystopia of Blade Runner, Webb, Michael
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF OPPRESSIVE-URBANISM?
The three images above, taken from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (based on Philip K Dick's short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), depict a postmodern, dystopic metropolis that is the backdrop to the film's narrative. The common element among the three images is non-human entities suggesting that a better life is waiting in an "off world colony", and, within the film, is expressed through the medium of larger-than-life images, or more specifically, advertising. These advertisements are positioned high above the citizens 'living at grade", encouraging citizens to take “soma-esque” supplements and migrate off world, taking the form of disembodied voices, heads and torsos displayed on the high floors of sky scrapers and mounted on the side of surveillance vehicles hovering above. The experience of the urban "life at grade" is shrouded in literal darkness and rain, creating the sense of timelessness, where each day bleeds into the next without any clear distinction between day and night. The uncanny arises when a citizen living "at grade" might wonder when to sleep, or when to wake, without any sense of when today ends and tomorrow begins. Conversely, the upper-class live high above grade, in a state of perpetual sunset. This arguably suggests the ability of the upper class to rise, while the life of those living "at grade" remains static, and perpetual. This idea of dystopia at "grade level" is unique to Blade Runner and differs from the world presented in Metropolis 2001, where the utopia exists “at grade" and all of the city’s undesirable systems are positioned sub-terrainian, hidden from view. In Blade Runner the upper class citizen can remove themselves from the dystopia by building towers high above the ground level to live and look down upon the dystopia below. However, the only true escape presented in the film, is to exchange life on earth for life in an off world colony.
Picture 1 captures the image of a geisha experiencing the ecstasy evoked from ingesting a small red “soma-esque” pill. As the viewer, we only experience the over-sized advertisement when flying high above grade level in police vehicles, where the woman's image appears to beckon the viewer to join her in a happiness appearing virtually within reach. The viewer does not experience the image of the geisha objectively, but as an observer rapidly rising off grade into a higher and more utopic experience of the city. This contrasts the Metropolis 2001 idea of utopic life at grade, which situates all dystopic life below grade level.
Picture 2 depicts the image of an oppressive hovering vehicle that displays advertisements for an off world colony, promising a better life in a new world. The irony of this image is a product of the pan-opt-iconic relation between the citizen "at grade", who would have already left earth if they had the means or opportunity, and the hovering, sparsely illuminated vehicle which appears to mock at the citizens from above a glass ceiling.
Picture 3 frames the hovering vehicle displaying the geisha image, this time from the point of view of the citizen at grade and framed behind the iron bars of a fire escape, suggest the citizen "at grade" is a prisoner to a society that dangles solutions from just beyond reach, and forever elusive. The citizen remains trapped in perpetual darkness, unable attain the quality of life elsewhere, while constantly reminded of the poor quality of life citizens “at grade” must endure.
The (mad) scientists in the film Blade Runner were men who were part of the mass production of androids. Their role was to create super-robots with all the features and likeness of human beings in order to perform specific tasks. This mass production of androids differs from that of the previous films viewed involving the creation of human-like robots. In comparison, the (mad) scientists’ roles in the previous films were strictly focused on one specific product, produced to carry out a specific task.
The scientists in the film Blade Runner can be seen as contributors to the uncanny valley, due to their creation of robots with great similarities (both physical and emotional) to that of a human being. Since the androids were created with a shelf-life of only four years they can be regarded as merely tools to further human existence, yet they are created with memories from a past which did not exist to them. The newest generation of androids were created in such a likeness as humans that they began to long for the same quality of life and existence. There now is a difficulty in separating the likeness of emotions and sincerity of the androids to that of a human being. This confusion leads to the feeling of “strangeness” in the human observer.
The creator of the Androids, Tyrell, embraced the existence of the androids, which ultimately lead to his own death. In the end he embraced them as a significant species and therefore blurring even more the line which separates humans as a supreme being over robots. The scientist with the aging disorder, who was responsible for the genetic design of some of the androids, admired the androids. The android had qualities which made them look more normal than he ever could. This also leaves the human viewer with feeling of strangeness. The scientist responsible for the manufacturing of the eyes of the androids, created the eyes in such human-like form, yet the eyes were the key to identifying the androids to the humans. Again the uncanny similarities between the android and the human leave the human viewer with uneasy feelings towards the androids.
Chao Lun Wang
In 2019 Los Angeles, the role of art and artistic expression has been reduced to the purpose of a resort for people to escape from their inhumane lives.
The first image depicts Zorah, the replicant who lives on earth as a dancer/performer. Her training as an assassin and the fact that she performs with snakes probably suggests that her performance would be quite dazzling, like the shows at Crazy Horse in Paris. However her status is never regarded as an artist. Rather, she’s been exploited by her audience and her boss as a sexual object.
In the second image, Rick is sitting in front of a piano in a solitary mood and pressed on the keys but was unable to play a piece of composed music. The notes alone offers a sense of serenity that puts Rick to sleep. He is not interested in the architecture of a piece of music, rather, he seeks salvation in the nature of an harmonious sound that is latent in 2019.
In the last image, a comical android created by Sebastian greets his guests. This android has an artificial intelligence but was intentionally kept low to represent the naivety of a child. Sebastian created this puppet android with a Pinocchio nose to keep himself company in a society where friendship is a rarity. However the android could not develop any emotion towards Sebastian and only operates in its programmed realm.
There are several scenes where art contribute to a sense of uncanny in the film. One is when the blimp balloon penetrates every street corner with harsh spot light. Even a structure as massive as the Bradbury building can not escape from the light, giving a sense of everyone is being watched wherever they are. Moreover, the odd Japanese advertisements that light up entire city blocks also contribute to the uncanny be putting the audience in the most unnatural landscape. Finally the origami unicorn left by Gaff is very uncanny because it shows that Gaff knows about Rick’s dream. This not only shows that Gaff has been watching Rick through out the development of the plot, but it also questions Rick’s true identity as a human, since his mind can be read.The three scenes involving art somewhat makes me feel more at home than the rest of the film because they are ways in which people in 2019 deals with solitude. Though, the environment and technology of 2019 is unrecognizable, but the fear for solitude remains the same, as though the human emotions did not evolve at the same pace.
In Blade Runner, the replicants are described as the perfect beings. Their physical and intellectual capabilities supposedly surpass those of any human, with the exception of the ability to feel. Even their emotions, however, are able to eventually develop after four years. In a sense, the replicants are more human than human. They have more empathy than their creators and those who hunt them down to “retire” them.
The three images depict three examples of replicants in the movie. The first image is the movie’s introduction to the character of Rachel, who is a replicant created without the cognisance of her own inhuman condition. The scenes introducing Rachel’s character shows how close she is to absolute perfection in terms of imitating humans through her perfect composure and appearance. The second image is showing the cells of the replicant snake skin, which was created identical to a real snake, except for the markings that differentiate it from the authentic. In the last image is Roy, who within a few moments has figured out how to defeat Tyrell in the chess game with Sebastian. Roy’s intelligence is superior to that of even Tyrell, a supposed genius among the human race.
The Nexus 6 replicants, however, are destined to live only shortly. They are either “retired” or eventually die after the four years of life programmed into their system. This is the horror that each of the replicants must deal with. They must also come to terms with an internal struggle, to accept themselves for who they are. Even with their superhuman capabilities, they are also considered expendable pawns. This is the reason for their internal psychological decay.
This idea is comparable to that of the architecture of the city of LA in 2019 depicted in the film. The future world shown is one of decay. Within all the glory of the technological advancements, lies a decrepit realm of despair. In this future, technology has not brought on any great life of convenience. The issues of crime, litter, and global warming have only been multiplied to a terrifying extent. The inability to feel inherent in a replicant’s programming is mirrored in the lack of empathy among the people of this society. This world seems to be so blindly driven only for the purpose of commerce that there has developed a dehumanization and deterioration of morals. This is evident in the Japanese advertisements covering all the buildings. Furthermore, the Off-World Colony and the building Sebastian lives in shows how abandonment of these areas of excessive decay becomes the natural reaction of a society’s mass consumption.
Set in the not-too-distant future and released in 1982, Blade runner
is admitted into the collective conscious just as the world is making
its way out of the prosperity and hope of the 50s and 60s, the disillusionment
of the 70s and as it begins to develop the apathetic attitudes of the
1980s. The film is set in a futuristic city of towering monoliths and
bright advertised off-world paradises, where old and new are hashed
together in a dark twisted combination of rotting misshapen history
and oppressive rusting infrastructure. Within this mix, it is the decaying
elements that speak most to the theme within the film of a brilliant
future gone to seed, of past dreams now forgotten or ignored. The story
revolves around the creation of 'more human than human' replicants
(androids), whose perfect design fails to completely hide the disastrous
moral complications inherent in their creation. They are a microcosm
for the ideal of the entire world, where design (building higher and
higher, faster and better), has failed to take into account the human
scale, creating instead, industrial wastelands of grit, fire and darkness.
Within the above scenes, this backdrop of ignored decay is brought
to the spotlight, forcing the characters to recognize their environments
just as they are confronted with the difficult questions posed by the
creation of false-humans.
In Ridley Scott’s futuristic film noir the most important authorities are obviously corporations like Tyrell, that appear as a strong visual manifestation by means of giant ads and landmark buildings, and the omnipresent police forces, represented by the detectives, the (bounty hunter like) blade runners, their vehicles and the architecture.
Whereas the image of the corporations is characterized by a dark, futuristic architecture, combined with colourful advertisings on buildings on a street level, the image of the police is mainly supposed to remind us of detective film-noir kind of stories. Architecture-wise, the police station was filmed at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, mainly because Scott liked the art deco and neo-Fascist architecture and the immensity of the location. Furthermore, Bryant’s office at the station looks like a typical film noir detective or police office, with slow spinning ceiling fans, the venetian blinds, smoke in the air and old equipment. The whole office barely contains any high tech devices, though. The noir theme also influences the style of the involved characters: Holden, Gaff and Deckard, for instance, are wearing floppy trenchcoats, which is another typical feature of detectives in classic film noirs.
A main element of the police presence are the airborne vehicles called spinners, that come sweeping from the dark sky. In most of the scenes where the upper city levels are shown, we see those spinners flying around or descending into the depths of the street levels, creating the impression of an omnipresent police force that controls the airspace – opposed to the neon-lit, dark, downtown streets that are populated by the lower class dregs of society. This fact, combined with the arbitrarily and rough behaviour of the shadowy police characters (finding and terminating Replicants in public), creates an uncanny feeling about the police force.
In both of the Metropolis movies we have the same layout of how the city works: the authorities are located at the upper parts of the city, (Ziggurat), whereas the lower classes of society are living in the lower districts and zones, a dark and shadowy environment. Once again, it is the strong contrast that seems striking. Concerning the role of the authorities in the Blade Runner universe, a quote by Detective Bryant seems insightful, as it is a good statement to show the social gap between authorities and the lower classes in the Blade Runner universe: "If you're not cop, you're little people."
The opening prologue in Blade Runner informs the viewer that six replicants made their way to earth, one was killed; as the movie proceeds the viewer is introduced to 4 replcants who had come to earth, and one, Rachael, who was made one earth. This begs the question who is the fifth replicant? There are many hints through out the film that suggest that Deckard is the unaccounted for replicant. The main clue is while playing the piano with Rachael, Deckard lost in thought has a vision of a unicorn galloping through a forest. A unicorn appears again at the end of the film in the form of an origami unicorn discard by Graff, a member of the police. As Deckard is leaving his apartment with Rachael he see the origami unicorn and picks it up, it is at the moment the viewer is aware that Graff knows what Deckard is thinking, suggesting that like Rachael who is ‘more human than human’ his thoughts and memories have been created for him. Watching the film a second time with the knowledge that the police know that Deckard is a replicant, the clues become more obvious. I would like to argue that Graff is the real blade runner and Deckard does the work that Graff would not be able to do with his human strengths. To support this thought, through out the movie Graff seems to follow Deckard, appearing immediately after the retirement of each of the replicants, not only does he know what Deckard is thinking by he also knows where he is. It is always after the dangerous work has been completed that Graff makes his appearance. To further this notion, in the last conservation between Graff and Deckard after the four replicants had been killed, Graff says, “you’ve done a man’s job, sir! I guess you are through?” Once again reaffirming that Graff is aware that Deckard is not human.
There are also many other hints of Deckard’s non-human status, individually all of these hints don’t point to Deckard being a replicant but when considered together they can make a strong case. First, Deckard’s apartment is full of photos; replicants tend to have a particular attachment to photos as they act as a physical link to a non-existence past. As Rachael had shown Deckard a photo of her family to prove their existence, Deckard too has a strong attachment to family photos displaying them through out his apartment. Another point of interest is Deckard’s eyes, eyes are the one tell tale sign of a replicant, in several scenes (including the one in the film capture) Deckard’s eyes have a yellow – orange glow, common in all the replicants. But a point even more interesting is that when Rachael tearfully asks if Deckard had ever taken the Voight-Kampf test, a test involving the eyes that determines if an individual is human, he avoids the question by not answering. Not does Deckard avoid answering the question but he also has super human strength that is also common to replicants, after taking a sever beating and have 3 fingers dislocated, Deckard still manages to scale a building, no small feat. Lastly Deckard has a particular empathy toward the replicants, after their deaths he says to Rachael, ‘all they wanted were the same answers the rest of us want: Where have I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got?” Deckard’s empathy maybe rooted in fact that like the other replants he too has asked these pointed questions about himself. I don’t feel that anyone of these traits on there own could prove the Deckard is a replicant but in combination and with the knowledge that Graff is aware of Deckard’s thoughts, I think a good case can be made that Deckard is a replicant.
In the movie Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott foreshadows our future
where man and robot coexist, with the artificial intelligence advancing
so far that we are virtually indistinguishable in many ways. This
explores the theme of what it means to be human and this fact is exemplified
in the debate about whether or not the protagonist of the film, Deckard,
is himself a replicant.
In contrast, Deckard exhibits many emotions and physical sensations
that the replicants were not able to convey – he exhibits great
personality. In his relations with Rachael he exhibits empathy,
which turns to lust. He seduces her, teaching her to react to
her own emotions. There appears to be a deep connection between
these two characters. As well, another distinctly human characteristic
is the moral conflict that can be seen, which triggers his drinking
to stifle his emotions.
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