Blade Runner

Blade Runner

  • “What makes us human?” – Google search (432,000 hits)
    • e.g., we have a soul, we cook, we remember things, we make tools, we make plans, we feel love, we have self-aware consciousness, we are created in God’s image, we are altruistic, we bury our dead, we have really big brains, we have language, we make cultures, we use fire, we have opposable thumbs, we use symbols, etc., etc.
  • “What make us human?” – Google news search (6,580 hits for recent articles)
  • Why Blade Runner is Timeless, from The Guardian (2015)
  • There sure are a lot of versions of Blade Runner. We watched the International Cut (1982), and then the ending (and interpolated unicorn scene) from the Final Cut (2007).
  • And people really care about which version is best.

It’s 2018, a year away from Blade Runner. How close are we to building Nexus 6?

Most film noir movies don’t use the flashback/voice-over technique of storytelling, but this technique has become closely associated with film noir for two main reasons.

One is that a few of the most iconic noirs do make use of it, so people who have only seen a handful of the true classics are more likely to associate this technique with noir. The other, and I’ve never seen this commented on elsewhere, is that the use of a voice-over closely replicates the tone and feeling of the novels on which a lot of noir movies were based.

The Philip Marlowe detective novels by Raymond Chandler are all narrated in the first person by the detective himself, and his world-weary voice and cynical commentary create much of the noir mood in the books. So when a film noir uses a flashback narrated by the detective, it produces basically the same feeling. It makes the movie feel more like the book.

Another aspect is that the flashback in a film noir is usually leading up to a tragedy of some kind. It’s the story of one man’s fall from grace. So the voice-over has a built-in quality of regret and pathos, as the person speaking has already experienced the tragedy. That’s why the theatrical version of the 70s sci-fi noir classic “Blade Runner” feels even more noir than the otherwise superior director’s cut, which dispenses with the voice-over. The studio insisted on adding the voice-over to help the viewers understand a complex story, but in doing so they inadvertently tapped in to a powerful noir trope – the voice of a doomed man narrating the story of his own defeat.


From The Blade Cuts, an interview with Ridley Scott:

Scott: …did you see the version [of the script] with the unicorn?

McKenzie: No…

Scott: I think the idea of the unicorn was a terrific idea…

McKenzie: The obvious inference is that Deckard is a replicant himself.

Scott: Sure. To me it’s entirely logical, particularly when you are doing a film noir, you may as well go right through with that theme, and the central character could in fact be what he is chasing…

McKenzie: Did you actually shoot the sequence in the glade with the unicorn?

Scott: Absolutely. It was cut into the picture, and I think it worked wonderfully. Deckard was sitting, playing the piano rather badly because he was drunk, and there’s a moment where he gets absorbed and goes off a little at a tangent and we went into the shot of the unicorn plunging out of the forest. It’s not subliminal, but it’s a brief shot. Cut back to Deckard and there’s absolutely no reaction to that, and he just carries on with the scene. That’s where the whole idea of the character of Gaff with his origami figures — the chicken and the little stick-figure man, so the origami figure of the unicorn tells you that Gaff has been there. One of the layers of the film has been talking about private thoughts and memories, so how would Gaff have known that a private thought of Deckard was of a unicorn? That’s why Deckard shook his head like that [referring to Deckard nodding his head after picking up the paper unicorn].