^^ I think, but I’m not sure, that I’m thinking of a different shot in the same apartment, where Deckard is more silhouetted.
Unfortunately, a few recent searches around the Internet is exasperating me. The problem is, this debate is so on-going that now every side has a reference — themselves. People linking to people linking to people linking back to what is essentially one person or another putting forth this or that analysis.
We could make it simple because “Scott sez so”, but apparently
“I know which interpretation of Deckard makes a more interesting movie. I don’t think that Ridley Scott does. The Final Cut represents another effort to rewrite film history, like Lucas’ Star Wars revisions and Spielberg’s attempts to eliminate the implication that government authority is backed by the threat of violence in E.T. In the process, Scott sacrifices some of his technical and narrative achievements from his previous versions. He did get another run in the theaters, though.”
i.e., “It doesn’t matter what the filmmaker intends, the viewer (me) saw it this way and it’s better my way, and his work to prove otherwise is just a lie.”
so in the end, I realize my efforts are going to go nowhere, none moreso for the fact that I’m arguing off of several years ago memory without the movie on hand to reference.
So fuck it.
Now as to “But I do agree that it matters not,” I understand what everyone is saying re: either way, it’s still about what it means to be human, but it does matter, to me, in terms of how a text is structured and makes its point. If Deckard is a replicant then we have an “untrustworthy narrator” in some sense, which is different from a human just discovering the humanity in non-human lifeforms because it also means he discovers the inhumanity in himself at the same time. I.e., the message switches from, “These people are people too!” to “…AND you’re one of them, so you have no area to judge.” As a simplistic way of speaking.
For me what I intend when I make the argument is to come at it from the three angles: structural (red eyes), interpretive (motha-fuckin’ unicorn, aka, “I saw it this way”), and authorial voice (Scott sez so). Most of the counterarguments are interpretive (“Well I saw it this way”) and deconstructive, (“Scott’s wrong because this interpretive element undermines his voice”). That leaves the structural, except somebody on the Internet somewhere said that Ford miscued and stepped into the red-eye by accident, and so it goes.
As Don DeLillo sez in White Noise : “The sophists and the hairsplitters enjoy their finest hour.”
Though I’m sure he didn’t intend to say that. After all it’s just a character’s quote, and thus not a part of the author’s perspective, n’est pas?
In view of all the numerous plot inconsistencies (the movie borders on surrealism towards the end), is it even valid to draw logical conclusions from one origami unicorn and a faint glare in the eyes?
Movies speak through camera movements, editing, lighting, mis-en-scene, etc. don’t they? So what do all the elements of the film taken together tell us?
The film works best if the question is not fully resolved. Plotwise, it’s a mystery-in-reverse. Instead of the conventional policier movement from uncertainty to certainty, you get movement from certainties to uncertainties. Conceptual blurring: the dehumanized human becomes more or less indistinguishable from the humanized android.
I agree, Matt, the film does work best if the issue is left unresolved. One could argue that the form of the film (a dreamy rhythm of associational montage, slow camera movements and searching light beams…) asks for an open-ended conclusion without definite answers. For me this movie is more a stream of consciousness than a strictly logical narrative. If it is a human stream of consciousness, then it is only natural for it to have doubts over its identity…
“Conceptual blurring: the dehumanized human becomes more or less indistinguishable from the humanized android.”
Right but Deckard being a replicant is part of that. It unbalances the false dichotomy of human v. replicant the same way the Corporation unfounds human v. god, the snake unfounds human v. animal (via the replicant process —> they’re all the same technology, designed by the same merchants), that one guy’s apartment human v. toys…..
The possibility of Deckard being a replicant yes, but if is still relatively easy to determine who’s human and who’s not (the film begins with this presumption, with Holden administering the Voight Kampff test to Leon). If Deckard’s true nature is clearly indentified, it’s not nearly as blurry, because we still have a Voight Kampff (of sorts) with which to orientate ourselves.
“If Deckard’s true nature is clearly indentified, it’s not nearly as blurry, because we still have a Voight Kampff (of sorts) with which to orientate ourselves.”
No we don’t, because it’s unclear if he’s taken it, and the overall point is that the identifier isn’t as significant as how the body perceives it, or more or less, the mechanics don’t matter as long as there is a soul. Hence the ending speech, “Time to die” and all that. I feel like without Deckard also sharing the replicant attribute, the movie does not cross the final threshold of entirely deconstructing the false dichotomy of artificial perception. The narrator is too reliable without out, is what I’m saying.
" I feel like without Deckard also sharing the replicant attribute . . . "
I don’t need to him to actually BE a replicant, though, because it’s clear enough from the film that the difference (at least until near the end of the film) between him and the replicants is basically nil.
“deconstructing the false dichotomy…” “the difference … is basically nil”
On some level of the film’s symbolism the difference is not nil. The replicants may be seen as demigods or heroes of mythology, enacting what humans in the dullness and senselessness of their daily activities are not capable of: courage, rebellion, compassion, nobility, naivety, cruelty, poetry… They embody dimensions of our nature that we never seem to fully possess. In this sense they are “more human, then human”.
So the dichotomy is not really a false one, because it presents an opposition between reality and myth, a realistic goal (“commerce is our goal”) and a motto (i.e. our dreams verbalized in ideology – “more human than human is our motto”). This dialectics does not ask for a resolution. In other words, if you read the film as an eruption of the mythical in the midst of dull reality, Deckard does not need to be a replicant objectively, because while being a human, he is already a superhero-replicant in his dreams, “in the Real of his desire” (if you allow me to use some lacanian language).
Of course, there are other levels of meaning in the film where it may be more logical for Deckard to be (or become) a replicant…
Which was sort of the film’s point, at least until Ridley Scott went all George Lucas on it.
My main problem with Deckard being a replicant (aside from the fact that it makes the tears in the rain scene far less significant) is that the film’s universe doesn’t really seem to support the idea very well. If there is such a thing as Blade Runners (and the film very hammily makes it clear that there are), if it takes no superhuman ability to take down a Replicant (a gunshot seems to do the trick quite well) and if they are exceedingly rare on earth (which the film makes quite clear) then there is really no point to spending a whole bunch of time, money and effort growing a Replicant and implanting it with false memories so it could shoot down 5 already dying comrades. It always felt like an unnecessary layer to me if he was one, like Scott winking at the audience and going wouldn’t it be awesome if it turned out this guy had been a replicant all along? while the cast and writer scream NOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Hopefully, the sequel that Scott’s working on will answer all these questions. You know, like Prometheus did. :-\
hey, cool. i’m glad this got revived, so i can share this long, pretentious rant i wrote the other day for no one to read. hooray. it occurs in response to criticisms of blade runner as a noir-styled film. posting here for the hell of it, and cuz it does at least indirectly address deckard as replicant.
Blade Runner is not a good or bad film by virtue of how closely it hews to the hallucinatory structure some perceive in the best films noirs. Nor is its quality determined by how well it articulates the architecture of human unconsciousness. It’s a romance, a science fiction film and a detective thriller. On the most superficial level, it succeeds or fails in terms of how well it lives up to the ambitions of those genres. Of course, these aren’t the only standards by which it might be judged, but they at least provide us with a reasonable place from which to start…
As a romance, Blade Runner seems doomed to failure from the outset. Sean Young, though lovely, is almost absurdly wooden as Rachel, and Harrison Ford’s Deckard seems to be sleepwalking through his life, barely able to work up the energy to eat a bowl of noodles or sustain a brief conversation. Nonetheless, their romance works marvelously. This is in large part a product of the film noir window dressing: the genre reeks of fatal romance. In a noir context, Young’s stilted aloofness becomes the defense mechanism of a scared young woman, while Ford’s apathetic exhaustion becomes a poignant cloak of scars.
These devices work because we know that wounded people dressed and posed like so – in pools of dim light and curls of smoke, accompanied by melancholy fake jazz – are fated to cling together and succumb. This has nothing to do with life as we live it. It is an artifact of the cinema, and while Blade Runner is a film about people and their dreams, it also concerns itself with cinematic archetypes, the forms they take, and the meanings they generate in doing so. Like Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, much of its pleasure lies in our recognition of the familiar, recontextualized.
As a science fiction film, Blade Runner is beyond compare. The futuristic city it creates is coherent, credible, splendidly realized in every detail, and visually ravishing (however much it may owe to various Metal Hurlant artists and works, especially Moebius’ Airtight Garage). This is our world, the world we know, but aged hideously, fallen into a strange sort of hyper-dense torpor and decay: the future as a fading, slumbrous memory of the past. In this context, too, the noir detailing serves the film’s themes. Noir, after all, is not only nostalgic from the present vantage, it is the cinema of loss, regret, entrapment and disillusion. These are the shades in which both Blade Runner’s future and its inhabitants are painted.
The film’s (apparently) human characters are not entirely present in the now. Like vampires, they loiter in dusty, half-lit rooms. Around them, their vast, decaying city dwells in perpetual, rain-sodden night. It’s no coincidence, I think, that the corporate towers dominating the skyline resemble the tombs of pharaohs while the private places in which people work and sleep feel like mausoleums. Though their technology is futuristic, the denizens of this world surround themselves with ancient things: antique toys, extinct species, old photos, crumbling architecture, the styles and modes of bygone days.
Finally, of course, Blade Runner is a detective story, and a rather brutal one at that. While it dispenses with mystery in favor of lethal pursuit, I find the progress of Deckard’s investigation both fascinating in its particulars and moving in its implications. Again, the noir elements are well suited to this narrative approach, and the approach in turn to the film’s vision of doomed romance and future-as-echoing-past. In traditional stories of this type, the detective pries open the corpse of the present to uncover traces of the past. He exists in death and reaches toward life only for what it can tell him about its absence.
In a sense, I suppose, Blade Runner envisions the future as the body of death, and the humans that inhabit it as revenant shells. They are what’s been left behind (ostensibly because fitter and happier specimens have left for the “offworld colonies”). Fat or lean, they are corrupt, depressed, aged, lonely and diseased. It is romance that threatens to rescue Deckard and Rachel from this suffocated world, romance that propels the film towards something other than entropic cold-death. It’s ironic that the vitality of life, of romantic love – vibrant desire that can transcend the living death – is found only in the film’s supposedly inhuman “replicants”…
Deckard’s unicorn dream, however trite it may seem, has power not so much in itself, as a generic representation of freedom, but rather in what it tells us about the man: Deckard’s dreams are not his own. They are stolen trinkets. His longing may be authentic, but its language is just a disposable picture postcard, a cheap download. Like Rachel’s implanted “memory” of the mother spider and her babies, this again suggests vampirism, necrology, memory as theft.
We replicants exist in the world of death, the perpetual ossification of the past. We stumble about in rapidly decaying bodies, our minds memory-laden simulacra. We reach towards the impossible dream of escape on the wings of someone else’s childish fantasy. Hell yes. Blade Runner.