Blade Runner

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With reference to specific scenes in a film from a particular genre, director or producer, discuss the screen techniques used to progress the narrative. Use images where appropriate to show what you mean.

 

Ridley Scott’s thematically brilliant masterpiece Bladerunner; the Director’s Cut[1] is a beautifully constructed film with deep meaning and context that reflects certain values and perspectives. What gives this film its power is the way the filmmaker has anchored his vision in the social and cultural realities the film’s time. The film muses on the dark possibilities that might arise from the troubling combination of aspiration and arrogance in human creativity. The Director’s cut of Bladerunner further highlights this concept and “the result is a heightened emotional impact: a great film made greater”[2]. It classically uses film and screen techniques to progress the narrative throughout the movie.

Bladerunner was released post World War II, post Cold War and the holocaust, a period of rapid development in science and communication technology, and commercialism. Medically it was a time of phenomenal change. Transplants of human organs became accepted though the implications of selling these have become an ethical minefield. At each stage of medical advance there has been an accompanying debate, an underlying anxiety about the ethical and moral implications of these actions, not necessarily but often using religious arguments. The media has been the prominent force in convincing people of the necessity of such programs as IVF. By bringing a story of the creation of an artificial human into the era of genetic engineering and new reproductive technologies, the film succeeded in crystallising some of the fears, uncertainties, and desires that surround the coming of postmodernism.

Commercialism in film

[3]

This is most adherent within the opening credits of Bladerunner. We see the consequences of man playing god through scenes of the landscape of 21st century, the audience experiences the urban jungle of Los Angeles where humans have annihilated most life on earth through pollution. “We are introduced to a wild city right from the opening scene as a landscape shot, to set the scene….special effects resembling furnace fires, hinting at the hellish and destructive environment below”.[4] The world is heavily commercialised in which you cannot escape the advertising (even indoors). The use of fire and synthetic music further add to the drama and desolate landscape of Planet Earth. The fire Spurting forth into the sky contributes to the danger and advises the audience that this place is foreboding and uncomfortable, it is a place that you do not want to live in. It is a place where only humans are natural even if they don’t act natural unlike the replicants who have become “more human than human”[5] as they have gained feelings and the naturalness of wanting more life. The replicants also seem to value memories, especially photographs. However, the humans misuse their memories by giving them to the replicants.

Commercialism in film. Fire and unnatural landscape in reflection of the eye

[6]

In the opening sequence in Bladerunner much symbolism is placed on the eye. The reflection of an unknown eye is seen in the opening sequence. It is considered to be the “window to the soul” and “barometer of emotions and truthfulness”[7]. This leads the audience to wonder whom the eye belongs to. Does it belong to Tyrell, the maker, or perhaps Roy, the creation, or maybe even Deckard who uses the voigt-kampf test. The reflective eye also invites the audience to look into the future and gaze at what man has done in the process of creating.

This opening scene heavily progresses the story as it forces us, the audience to dive into this twisted, dark, noir style world that we are unfamiliar with, a world that we don’t want to live in, that is and unnatural. It’s a world that our “villains” are fighting to stay alive in. It sets the scene for the rest of the film.

Parental responsibility is an important theme that is visited in Bladerunner where we witness the confrontation between the creator and the creation, Tyrell and Roy Batty, “It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker”.[8]  This scene of confrontation between Roy (the creation) and Tyrell (the creator) is such an important moment that is in many ways a heightened climax as well as a down point within the film. The location the scene is set in tells a lot about Tyrell. The candle lit chamber gives Tyrell an almost god like appearance making the audience feel as though he considers himself to be a god to his replicants. But this is completely juxtaposed when Tyrell admits he can’t make any alterations, “We made you as well as we could make you” “but not to last”[9]. This religious context also adds to the story making Roy feel like he is returning as a prodigal son as well as the moment when he kisses Tyrell, making the scene reminiscent of Judas kissing Jesus as he betrayed him making Tyrell “a Christ like figure”[10].

[11]

Roy confronts Tyrell in his bedroom chamber. The candles give the scene an almost god like feel

The scene alerts us to the possibility that men do not always have the capacity for humanity. The replicants’ desperate attempt to survive is not only central to the movie physically but it is also central to the ideas of Bladerunner. They remind us that because we create the monsters of the world, we are also responsible for them.  Presenting us with a world, which is the consequence of lack of responsibility, further develops this idea. It is a monstrous world of fire and “constant acid rain”[12], filled with dehumanised buildings where even the skies are in habited by machines. The humans who inhabit the streets lack any sense of community or connection, even animals have disappeared due to the selfishness of man. This world is the consequence of an obsessive corporate culture that forgets about the human and uses science for its own ends “commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto”[13]. Tyrell illustrates a lack of humanity in his inability to extend human fellowship to his creations.

In Bladerunner, the replicant, Roy Batty is attractive, blonde and blue-eyed, physically perfectly formed, yet he is despised even though he is more superior to humans “were not computers, Sebastian, were physical”[14]. His confrontation with Tyrell is a moving and somewhat symbolic scene. Roy confronts his maker at the top of the Tyrell Corporation building, demanding something from his creator. Roy wants more life, “can the maker repair what he makes?”[15]. The dramatic music as Roy kills Tyrell out of anguish and frustration that he can’t be “repaired”[16] is haunting and dramatic, making the viewer fear him, his perfection and his emotion forcing the viewer to wonder if humans do feel emotion. This is further heightened when Roy kills Sebastian, a man who appears to be as naïve and innocent as the replicants themselves especially since he ages quickly and therefore is in a similar dilemma as Roy and the other replicants are in. He cowers behind a table and begins to flee as Roy slowly moves towards his next victim, hinting the audience that he sees himself as far superior to man, even if this man somewhat resembles his problems.

It is in this moment in the film, through its screen techniques that we see how Roy has changed, he is no longer fighting desperately for his life anymore. He has become reckless and does not care who is in his path anymore. He knows he has a death sentence. It is this confrontation scene where Roy’s thoughtless actions lead into the final showdown between the replicant and Deckard.

Ridley Scott’s masterpiece cleverly narrates its story through heavy themes and film techniques. It is a film that shows intense character depth and a world that is so immense that it is haunting in several ways. It is beautifully orchestrated in emotion and feel and not only allows the audience to be drawn in by its story but feel as though they are part of this enigmatic universe.


[1] Michael Deeley (producer), & Ridley Scott (director). (2006) Bladerunner: The Director’s Cut, [DVD]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures

[2] Ibid. DVD Cover

[3] Prison Planet Forum, accessed 12/6/12 <http://www.madisonavenuejournal.com/wall3.jpg&gt;

[4] Book Rags 2012, accessed 12/6/12 <http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/4/10/23926/9288&gt;

[5] Michael Deeley (producer), & Ridley Scott (director). (2006) Bladerunner: The Director’s Cut, [DVD]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures

[8] Michael Deeley (producer), & Ridley Scott (director). (2006) Bladerunner: The Director’s Cut, [DVD]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures

[9] Ibid.

[13] Michael Deeley (producer), & Ridley Scott (director). (2006) Bladerunner: The Director’s Cut, [DVD]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

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