Film School Confidential: BLADE RUNNER

We spent the last three days looking at and analyzing my favorite movie of all time; Blade Runner. I’ve watched the film in it’s many versions at least a dozen times, watched the dvd extras, read the book, played the game. What could our fearless leader at the screenwriting education, Lars C. Detlefsen possibly tell me about Blade Runner that I didn’t already know?

Well, quite a lot actually.

Here (some of what) I didn’t know:

Machines and loudspeakers are used as greek chorus in the film. When we first meet Deckard, he is down and out – but the blimp above him says “a chance to begin again, in a golden land of opportunity and adventure”. Deckard is not interested. In the midpoint, where Deckard is chasing down Zhora, traffic lights are saying “cross now, cross now”, as if to urge him to cross over into the other half of the film, past the point of no return (killing Zhora).

The questions in the Voight-Kampf test are related to the plot. In the first scene between Leon and Holden, Leon is “not helping” the turtle, he doesn’t show compassion. The last scene with Batty and Deckard, is about a replicant who DOES help. The question that pisses Leon off is the one about his mother, which is related to the replicants’ project of revenge against their “parent” (Tyrell).

Gaff’s origami figures throughout the film are confidence scenes. You know in cop buddy movies, we learn about the hero’s feelings and emotions through his conversations with his partner? Here it’s the same, only replaced by origami. In Leon’s apartment Gaff leaves a little matchstick man with an obvious erection, which sort of replaces the conversation where Deckard talks about his meeting with Rachel. What Gaff is saying, without any words, is: “You want to bone that girl, don’t you.”

Deckard’s fatal flaw is alcohol. Bryant knows this, and offers him a drink (which he immediately takes) when he’s trying to persuade him to come back to work. Next time Deckard drinks, it’s a bigger glass, then the bottle – increasing/changing every time it’s used. After he retires Zhora, he buys a bottle of something stronger, after the beating there’s blood in his drink and after that he stops drinking altogether. He even runs right past a bottle at J. F. Sebastian’s apartment, showing us he has moved on and wants to live rather than sit and feel sorry for himself.

The theme of humanity versus inhumanity plays throughout. Animals, humans, replicants. Humans who act like machines (Holden), replicants who act like humans (Rachel) and characters with animalistic behavior. What surprised me, was the fact that many of the main characters are based on an animal of some sort: Batty is the Wolf (leader of the pack, smart, ruthless, even howls), Leon is the Bear (hulking, strong, not too bright, dips his hands in “honey” at Chew’s workshop), J.F. Sebastian is the Mouse (small, cowardly, greyish clothes, mousy car), Pris is the Cat (fur coat, collar, plays with her prey – notice the MEOOW in the end of the scene where she meets J.F, and the cat eyes of the streetlight behind her!).

Guess what animal Deckard is? The Turtle! Brown coat, where he can pull his head in, lives in his shell (turtle shell patterns on the walls and floors). In the final confrontation with Batty, Deckard is as helpless as the turtle mentioned in the first Voight-Kampff test – but now the replicant has become compassionate enough that he saves the turtle.

Hope this was as new and interesting to you as it was to me.

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