In this essay I will be analyzing the film Blade Runner, discussing the narrative techniques, representations, use of stereotypes and the genre used. I will look at the different techniques the director used to create his vision and its impact on the audience. Although the story is set in the future, Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” is firmly rooted in the classic film noir genre. It has all the necessary components for this in the characters portrayed in the film. There are three female characters in the film and all of them play the part of the femme fatale of film noir to some degree.Order now
They use their sexual attractiveness and ruthless cunning to manipulate men to gain what they want or what they need to survive. Zhora (Johanna Cassidy) uses her sexual guiles to gain employment as an erotic dancer as a means to enter society and try and blend in with the humans. Her clothes could be seen as a sign of the femme fatale, while getting changed into her normal clothes after work you see her slip into a bra styled top and a coat that is completely transparent she leaves nothing to the imagination also she happily strips for a shower in front of Deckard (Harrison Ford) in order to lure him into a false sense of security.
Another of the femme fatales is Pris (Daryl Hannah); she uses her sexual guiles in much the same way. She plays a scared and harmless and harmless but beautifull in order to ensnare J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), lulling him into a false sense of security. She cuddles him and calls him her friend so she can manipulate him and again like Zhora wears dark tight clothes that cling to her body and leave little to the imagination. The last of the femme fatales is Racheal (Sean Young); she is introduced as the perfect example of the quintessential femme fatale. Her clothes make up and hair is always pristine.
She is presented as an object of desire, beautifull but slightly cold at the same time. It’s not until she learns that she is a replicants that she turns her charms on Deckard in order to survive. Although she is manipulative she is easier to like and seems more innocent than the other two female characters giving you both sides of the story, the Madonna and the whore. The film noir aspect is backed up further by our hero Rick Deckard, the protagonist. He is introduced to the film in such a way that the camera gets to focus on him for a short while as he waits for a seat at a food stop.
This gives the audience a chance to take him in rather than just see him appear on screen. He wears the clothes of the classic detective; the long trench coat is an obvious sign. When he is arrested you get to see the other qualities the protagonist has, he has the verbal wit of a hard boiled cop, the kind of wit they use as a security devise to help protect him in world dominated by crime, corruption and cruelty and you can see the city that he lives and works in is a dark and scary metropolis with de-humanising environments, dark gloomy and rainy with desolate buildings
In the establishing of the film the mise-en-scene and non diagetic sound create a very vivid vision of the future; this shot of the film is a panorama of a dark city. The title “Los Angeles, November 2019” appears telling us where and when the film takes place. The use of night and shadow emphasizes the cold and the darkness. The city is a silhouette of skyscrapers and lights against grey sky, smoke stacks shoot flames into the sky and lightning and spinners shatter the horizon.
What appears next is an extreme close up of Holden’s (Morgan Paull) eye filling the entire screen and reflecting the cityscape. Another shot of the city shows a pyramid at the bottom of a column of light and again Holden’s eye, it shows us reflections of the city as if it was the viewer’s eye. While all this is going on the camera moves forward very slowly giving the viewer not on the chance to see the setting of the film but also a chance to see the type of visual effects in store for the viewer giving him/her a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation.
The scene then moves on to Leon (Brion James) being asked what seems to be perfectly innocent questions by Holden which result in him being violently shot twice by Leon. This is where the director introduces Roland Barthes hermeneutic codes to the audience, the idea being that using the codes doesn’t just create suspense but keeps the viewer interested enough to keep viewing so as to make sense of what just happened. In a way the viewer is tricked into viewing further to satisfy a sense of confusion and curiosity.
The director also uses a classical narrative in the film i. e. it has a beginning, a middle and a happy ending and along with Barthes hermeneutic code there is also a theory by Tzvetan Todorov otherwise known as Todorov’s Hollywood narrative. This is the basic concept that the narrative starts with a state of equilibrium where there is a period of calm. An outside force disrupts the state of normality i. e. the equilibrium. This is known as the disruption and once the outside force has been fought and defeated, order will return and a new equilibrium will be established. This is called the resolution.
The establishing shot is the equilibrium, leon shooting Holden becomes the disruption as we are introduced to the replicants and when the fight between Deckard and Roy Batty (Rutgar Hauer is over and Deckard manages to escape with Racheal there is a resolution to the story. Another use of narrative that Scott uses is stereotypes; the film is littered with them. Rutgar Hauer plays the military man, strong decisive, and has leadership qualities. His companions Leon, Zhora and Pris all fall into the stereotype category also.
Leon plays the soldier/hardened criminal. You can see this in the way he talks to Deckard as they are fighting. At one point he wakes him from unconsciousness only to say “wakeup, time to die”. You also see this part of his nature in his interview with Holden. When he is sure he is about to be caught the guns come out blazing. He has no remorse for his actions and his anger is all the justification he needs to kill. Zhora and Pris fall into the femme fatale but have sub contexts to go with their characters also.
Pris has the stereotype of the woman who is forced into prostitution, angry, evil and cunning but at the same time slightly innocent. Zhora on the other hand is the stereotype of the female soldier, battle hardened, tough, confidant and aware of how she can use a crowd to hide herself. The stereotypes don’t stop at the replicant’s. The police officers (blade runners) also fall into this equation. A good example of this is when Deckard is brought to Harry Bryant’s (M. Emmet Walsh) office. It’s not just the characters here that fit the stereotype theme, the setting fits also.
The scene starts with Deckard being brought into the captains office, dark and gloomy with the old style lamp on the desk, his attitude is of the old racist cop referring to the replicants with disgust as “skin jobs” and manipulates Deckard back out of retirement by accusing him of being one of the little people. Gaff (Edward James Olomos) is in the room at the same time and at first seems to be harmlessly practicing origami but as the scene goes on the camera goes to a close up of the origami chicken he leaves on the table, accusing Deckard of being a coward when he refuses to help Bryant.
He is the professional cop, he has learned a new language called city speak that is a mix of Hungarian, French, Chinese, German, Korean and Japanese which he uses to do his job more appropriately . He dresses different from Deckard; he has more style and interest in his appearance and uses origami as a means to keep his mind focused. He isn’t as burnt out and bitter as Deckard and Bryant and holds onto a sense of strength and professionalism. Dr Eldon Tyrell is a very interesting stereotype; he is basically a stereotype of god to the replicants and a god among men to the humans.
While everyone else lives in squalor, he lives in a palace and is extremely confidant. You can tell this from his first seen with Deckard and Racheal. He stares strait into Deckard’s eyes as he talks to him, with a thoughtful but menacing smile, almost as if he is enjoying playing with him. While he talks to Deckard, using a language that is fast and precise, you get the sense that every time he speaks, the director has written so he seems to question the intelligence of whoever he is talking to and push them a little as if to see what will happen next.
He is also quoted by Roy Batty to be “his maker”. There are some underlying plotlines in the film that help keep the viewer entertained. The blossoming love story between Deckard and Racheal blends together with the replicants fight for survival and Deckard trying to survive one last job. There is also the humanity factor to the film; a large part of the film is dedicated to a separate idea of what it is meant to be human. Ironically Deckard’s life is saved twice by the replicants he is employed to retire (kill), once by Racheal and in the final fight with Roy Batty.
He feels sympathy for Deckard as he watches him slipping of the rooftop and realizes that he is about to die decides to save his life even though Deckard has killed his friends and tried to kill him. There is a scene when you see Batty release a white dove, symbolizing freedom, and sits down to explain to Deckard just what it is like to be a replicants, a life of great wonder with sights and memories most people will never have and finally a life wasted, ending too soon. He dies with dignity and shows more humanity than any other character in the film.
Gaff also shows a sign of humanity, at the end of the film he shouts to Deckard “it’s too bad she won’t live, but then again who does”. Gaff has decided to let Racheal live so she and Deckard can be together for the short time they have, he knows it won’t last forever. Blade Runner is an extremely well written and directed film and would have been new and more than exciting enough to hold the audiences attention.
Ridley Scott managed to create a believable vision of the future along with a story within a story. Not only that the film is so well put together that there is the possibility of further story lines within the film e.g. is Deckard a replicants, how could he love a machine if he wasn’t or maybe they were all replicants, there was no real sign of life in the city, al the humans have left for off world colonies, maybe they were just left there to die while Tyrell plays with his toys or maybe even Tyrell has made replicas of himself.
The possibilities are endless. The film itself was made produced before the use of digitally enhanced special effect were readily available which to my mind says that whether the viewer liked or disliked the film, Ridley Scott’s accomplishments have to be recognized and applauded.