Blade Runner (1982) - Film Review
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” is a film concerned with questions of identity and authenticity. The story follows Deckard, the eponymous Blade Runner, who is tasked with finding, identifying and ultimately retiring (executing) replicants (androids) in the Los Angeles of the near future.
Although the themes of the film are clearly science fiction, much of its visual style, plot and characterisation is heavily inspired by film noir. Scott combines these two elements to produce a dark and gritty depiction of Los Angeles where stunning advancements in technology are harshly juxtaposed with a dilapidated and decaying world. This is evident from the opening shots of the film, where the hulking brutalist architecture of the future masterfully dominates the screen. Scott’s use of lighting is particularly notable, where smoke and harsh artificial illumination combine to create heavy atmospherics dominated by both shadows and areas of sharp clarity. One of the subtler visual cues used in the film is when mirrored lighting is used to illuminate the retinas of the androids, lending a reflective character to their eyes with a stunningly inhuman effect.
It is in its effective characterisation, however, that the film truly shines. The Replicants are never written as artificial characters, but rather as empathetic and emotional. Tyrell, the creator of the androids himself, even states that they are “more human than human”. This takes different forms between the characters, such as Rachael falling in love with Deckard or the strikingly human experiences of Roy Batty narrated in his final monologue. The film ultimately reaches the conclusion that it is irrelevant whether our memories and experiences are authentic, but rather that our identity can be derived from our experiences in the moment.
Although this is an interesting commentary on the possibilities of humanity in artificial persons, it raises important questions pertinent to how we view identities constructed on false premises. If we claim that these false experiences have their own validity, we face crucial problems with how we approach patients whose identities are dominated by delusions. Perhaps it is too much to expect universally applicable statements on identity from a single film, however the fact that Blade Runner raises such questions is a testament to its vision.
By Adan Taylor