Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner', 1982...

Fig. 1 Blade Runner poster.

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner is a marvel of production design. Filmed on the same redressed back-lot at Warner Brother's studio as The Maltese Falcon, it seems the perfect place to record this neo-noir film.

Fig. 2 The interview room.
Blade Runner is perhaps best known for its use of visual language from the popular crime genre, film noir.  The cinematography, sets and lighting used are all influenced by this generation of films and because of that, it allows the film to be a stunning interpretation of a futuristic world full of the darkness and grime of that era. Paul Gormley mentions that "In Blade-Runner, the rain, like everything else in the film, seems artificial, while at the same time evoking nostalgia for noir films" (Gormley, 2005:172)  There is a clear nostlagia in this film, from the dark shadows cast across rooms to the wet and unpleasant weather that prevents you from knowing what time of day it is. Everything has an artificiality that the more theatrical film noirs seemed to have.  However, what makes this so intriguing is that for Blade Runner, this artificiality seeps deeper than just as a reference to the film noir genre. As Mark Conrad goes on to explain that "past noir is theological, and future noir is sci-fi. And, in the transition, God and the devil are replaced by science and technology." (Conrad, 2007:14)  Conrad is talking about the villainous superstitious and supernatural element that were perhaps featured in 'classic' film noirs being replaced by the artificial and man-made enemies seen in technology.  It is this that gives the film title 'neo-noir' or 'future noir' as the traditional elements begin to be replaced by the modern interpretations.  One example of this is seen in figure 1, where the mix of future technology is combined with traditional film noir valuse.  On the subject of testing whether someones human or a robot (Replicant), Conrad divulges that "the only way to test them is Voigt-Kampff, a kind of sci-fi Turing test used to tell robots from people, and this is also the future noir version of the classic noir “interview".” (Conrad, 2007:13)  Eventhough these characters are in a futuristic time where robots as sophisticated as humans are being built, the detectives are still using traditional interviewing techniques to unsettle and catch out their suspects.

Fig. 3 Replicant femme fatale.
This use of typical film noir techniques is continued in the exploration of the detective's sense of self.  One of the most impressive things in this genre is the ability to explore the private detective's (protagonist's) psychology and his own interpretations of the world.  Conrad believes that  "It’s this way in all future noirs— the detective must find himself, despite high technology, but using those same tools as well." (Conrad, 2007:14) This is more than true in Blade Runner as Deckard is so unsure about his own existence. Is he just another cop going around 'retiring' rogue replicants or was he built and given memories in order to serve a purpose, much like the female replicant in figure 3.  Not only does this film explore Deckard's own identity but whether his job of seeking out and 'retiring' replicants is morally sound, they are 'more human than human' afterall. Stephen M. Sanders explores that "Where Blade Runner initially positions viewers in relation to Deckard with the implicit understanding that he is human and the replicants are fabricated, nonhuman beings, the film eventually undermines and reverses this understanding so that we come to recognize the replicants as those who embody the values we believe define what it is to be human: empathy, trust, loyalty, love." (Sanders, 2007:35)  Sanders' interpretation is that Deckard begins as a traditional, cynical private detective figure and the audience is taken along with him to find out that these robots, that are at least as intelligent as a human, are on the run, killing people as they go.  These robots look identical to humans, bar a slight intermittent glow in their eyes, their one difference is that they aren't given emotions. The problem is that, because of their intelligence, they have started to develop them naturally and have gained the desire to survive.  As the film plays out the audience begins to relate more to the raw and uncertain emotions of the replicants than the stale, almost non-existant emotions from Deckard.  This makes Deckard so different to the replicants that the audience is unsure that he could be one himself, until little origami animals and photographs start to peak their interest.  Laid around Deckard's home are bits and pieces that hint at the possibility of his being a replicant, such as photos like those the femme fatale replicant, Rachael, possess' and a large piano placed in the centre of his apratment. Conrad explains that "the piano is the clue: Rachael also knows how to play piano, and we are given no good reason why Deckard (a cop) would own one...But, from the perspective of the history of the detective story, really, this makes perfect sense, for his imagination is infused with the same aesthetic creativity you find in all great detectives, from Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin, to Sherlock Holmes...Deckard doesn’t have a past at all. He might as well have been built a week ago— just like Rachael." (Conrad, 2007:14)  Though it doesn't seem that shocking that he may have learnt a musical instrument, why would an insensitive cop have a piano, let alone play it.  His home and memories are being created in the same formula that these detective stories, such as Sherlock Holmes, are, thus allowing him to be considered fictional, man-made.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Blade Runner poster. At: http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_koxxipye6n1qza4ndo1_500.png (Accessed on: 28.11.11)

Figure 2. Blade Runner (1982) The interview room. At: http://mollybolder.blogspot.com/2010/12/blade-runner.html (Accessed on: 28.11.11)

Figure 3. Blade Runner (1982) Replicant femme fatale. At: http://mollybolder.blogspot.com/2010/12/blade-runner.html (Accessed on: 28.11.11)


Conard, Mark (2007) Philosophy of Neo-Noir. USA: University Press of Kentucky.

Gormley, Paul (2005) New-Brutality Film : Race and Affect in Contemporary American Film. GBR: Intellect Ltd.

Lev, Peter (2000) American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions. USA: University of Texas Press,

Sanders, Steven M.(2007) Philosophy of Popular Culture : Philosophy of Science Fiction Film. USA: University Press of Kentucky.

No comments:

Post a Comment