Blade Runner portrays Los Angeles, 2019 as the antithesis of its own ‘Off World Colonies’, advertised on blimps circling the city’s eternally rain drenched skies. It is an apparition of all that has been left behind: the collection and reuse of all the detritus, repurposed and retrofitted by a moribund denizenship. An allegory of contemporary culture. One that, infused with the mythology and aesthetic of Film Noir, provides the macrocosm by which the lexicon of characters in the film question their right to and perception of the human condition.
The interminable invasion of advertisement and surveillance in Scott’s future is best exposed through the signature venetian blinds of Film Noir “making visible their state of entrapment” (Mayer & McDonnell, 2007: 75), recurrent throughout the film (11, 23, 32, 63, 71, 97, 109 mins). The contrast between the shadows and prowling beams of light, cast across the scenes by the blimps and police outside, creates a personal and social insecurity. The fact that the characters seem utterly unperturbed by this torrential intrusion pushes the connotations, to a near-Marxist degree of social stagnation. Bryant’s so-called “little people” (12 mins) make no effort to dissent. Likewise, the film’s archetypical noir protagonist, Deckard, an ex-blade runner who embodies “the classic anomie... haunted by drink and defeatism” (Williams, 1988: 386). The only motivator for him, is the threat of becoming one of these “little people”, forcing him back into his morally ambiguous career. The blind, passiveness of Deckard and the “little people”, thus reflecting the so-called Sartrean ‘Action Theory’ (Hornsby, 1988), demonstrate a lack of conscious realisation of and personal responsibility for ones actions: a lack of existential awareness.
Another, particularly salient example is the love scene (71 mins, ), which is composed in such a way that Deckard and Rachael are shot — first from within and subsequently from without — against the graphic Venetian blinds; the camera, and thus the viewer: made voyeur. The cutaway, following their aggressive kissing, reveals a sexually suggestive, smirking billboard as though she too is scrutinising them (72 mins). The supreme dominance of this anthropomorphic billboard conjures the same omniscient, godliness as do the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg in Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ (1925). Both are a criticism of the ever indulgent, consumeristic societies in which they are embedded: visual manifestations of a simultaneously spectacular and subliminal, omniscient authority watching an unconscious society. 
Eyes recur as an important motif throughout Blade Runner. The opening scene contrasts extreme long, establishing shots of the megalopolis with the extreme close-up of an iris in which the city is reflected. Immediately, a juxtaposition of nature and artificiality is drawn. The motif is elaborated upon further, in a different manner; it becomes an important analogical factor through Batty's conversation with Chew: designer of Replicant eyes. To Chew’s assertions of the eyes in his laboratory: “Those are my eyes...”, and later “I design your eyes.” Batty shrewdly retorts: "Chew – if only you could see what I have seen, with your eyes..." (28 mins). With this eloquent irony, Batty declares that his — and therefore all Replicants and Humans alike — existential experience and endeavours are theirs alone, and not their makers’. Eyes in Blade Runner, then, acts as a synecdoche reflecting the literal act of seeing and that which is seen or experienced as a microcosm of the Replicants’ and Humans’ existential perspective, alike.
Contradictory, Scott employs eyes as the sole discernible trait between Humans and Replicants. This, however, undermines the assertion that humans and replicants are the same, blemished by the telltale glow in their eyes under certain light, not seen in the human characters (20, 73, 82, 83 mins). A motif taken too far by Scott, perhaps, seemingly influenced by Fritz Lang’s visual device of a fluttering left eye that identified ‘Maschinenmensch’ Maria from the otherwise physically indistinguishable virgin Maria, in Metropolis (1927). Moreover, the fact that Replicants, despite their supposed germination of emotions and despite even Rachael’s false memoryimplants, are incapable of indisputably passing the Voight-Kampff empathy test, unlike Humans; a physical indication of their emotion inefficacy.The Replicants’ pursuit of their maker culminates with Batty gaining entry to Tyrell’s quarters, by winning for Sebastian the chess game against him (80 mins). Batty proves himself to be as proclaimed “at least equal in intelligence” (1 min) to his creator, a genius amongst men. The re- editing a different takes as replacement changes Batty’s utterance: “I want more life... fucker” (Blade Runner, 1982: 82 mins) to “I want more life ... father.” (Blade Runner, 2007: 83 mins). The latter — paired with a lower tonal delivery than the former — adds a gravity reminiscent of Frankenstein’s Creature (Shelley, 1818); Batty implores his father not for a bride, but for more life. The scene is devised almost entirely of close-ups, focussing on the oratory duel between Batty and Tyrell, the creature and his maker. An intensity is composed, importance hanging on every word and facial reaction, emblazoned by an ardent candlelit chiaroscuro.
Eventually, like Frankenstein, Tyrell denies Batty’s appeal, philosophising: “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very, very brightly” (85 mins). In this moment, Batty realises that the human who created him — supposed god over replicant — is no better, no more powerful than he is. In brutally murdering Tyrell, Batty is able to exact sapient retribution as per his design, manifesting the another part of the film’s opening epigram: “superior in strength and agility...” (1 min). By mortally crushing in his eyes, Batty exploits the sole “markers of authenticity” (Lee, 1999: 195) differentiating Human from Replicant: without his eyes, they are ultimately and fallibly the same. Tyrell is no deity or human superior; rather Batty becomes, for himself, his own god.
Small flourishes of symbolism humanise the Replicants throughout the film: femme fatale Zhora’s anguish and terror while fleeing Deckard (55 mins, ), Pris’ amusement with Sebastian’s genetically engineered toys (73 mins), Roy’s “precious photos” (25 mins). In reverse, Deckard is systematically dehumanised. His heroic status is threatened when he shoots Zhora in the back, a dishonourable execution which he later regrets — buying a large bottle of alcohol to once more numb his disgrace. Likewise, the ‘retirement’ of Pris (93 mins), who bleeds and convulses violently on the ground, in agony: “they bleed and thrash and scream like human[s]” (Dempsey, 1982: 35). Batty, on the other hand, mourns his fellow Replicant, whom he loves: kissing her corpse and whimpering like a heartbroken wolf. (95, 97 mins) Confusingly, Batty is often cued by low angled shots, which in Film Noir signifying villainy in a character. Dempsey, by contrast, assumes the symbolism behind this framing is to “place him against the cosmos for a backdrop” (Dempsey, 1982: 38), deifying him. Where Deckard’s heroism falls under dispute, Batty’s initially perceived villainy is subverted. Their relationship as protagonist and foil thus forms a “film-noir style... parallel dichotomy — hero/villain” (Dempsey: 36), their positions in the dichotomy destabilised by the Noir mythos of moral ambiguity and their actions.
The “precious photos” belonging to Roy, Rachael and Deckard each represent a mutual tenacity for memory: “express[ing] their pathos in clinging to ersatz photographs of families of origin that never existed” (Battaglia, 2001: 507). In doing so, “the replicants achieve a willed forgetting of the lie of their heredity.” They feign humanness. Nishime likens this to the suffering of the stigmatised 'Mullato'. A curious comparison, but one well supported by the fact that the Replicants "attempt to pass as human" (2005: 41). However, it is only through their adoption of these idiosyncrasies, in a simulative projection of humanity, that the Replicants undergo an anagnorisis: comprehending their existential nature. McNamara (1997: 437) summarises this consummately: “They bleed. They mourn. They capture Kodak moments.” They are biological, empathetic and sentimentally nostalgic: they are subject to the human condition.
Rachael’s nostalgia however, is discovered to be a manufactured “cushion or pillow for their emotions... we can control them better.” (22 mins) Fathoming that she is a Replicant leads for her a subverted form of the amnesia, a recurrent theme of Noir (Dickos, 2002: 182). Indeed though she remembers everything, everything she remembers is not her experience. The validity of memory is called into question. Her investigation as to whether she could play the piano: “I don’t remember if it’s me, or Tyrell’s niece” (70 mins) revealed that she indeed could. Thus, the film articulates the emotional bond to memory — and not their conception — that asserts their immersion in the human condition.
Batty’s soliloquy (106 mins) is one of film’s crowning existential moments. Batty not only saves Deckard's life, despite evident grounds for vengeance for his beloved Pris, (‘retired’ by Deckard) but to some extent he enlightens his quarry. His empathy subverts his society’s stigma, transcending that of humans such as the blade runners, the inspectors, the scientists and the genius: "he can demonstrate a very human quality at a time when the roles are reversed... Roy Batty takes the humane route." (Scott to Edwards & McKenzie, 1982: 30) He is therefore, portrayed as the epitome of Tyrell Corporation’s motto: “More Human than Human” (22 mins).
Another reading of Batty’s act acknowledges the existential ache for memory. Cole (1995: 189) compares Batty’s state to that of Ishi1 who, as the last of his kin felt the overwhelming need to pass on his people’s stories, so that their memory might live on. With Batty about to die, telling Deckard of the marvels he has witnessed is the only way those memories might survive: “Attack ships on fire... c-beams glitter in the dark...” or else, he eulogises: “All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.” (106 mins). The tragedy, however, is that despite this these moments are indeed lost— experiences that were his, alone. At least the memory of him, Pris, Zhora and Roy is not lost. Scott seems to affirm both these views, “he wants a kind of death watch... pass on the information that what the makers are doing is wrong." (Scott to Edwards & McKenzie, 1982: 30). Either way, Deckard is changed profoundly beholding Batty slowly dying on the rooftop, the rain here falling on his body, a pathetic fallacy of catharsis. Deckard’s emotion is carefully disclosed through the shot structure: close-ups on dying Batty entwined with his own confounded, but then comprehension . Once more in chiaroscuro focusses attention on their animation: subtle lifelessness and enlightenment. The dove, flying away, symbolising a mutual freedom from their existences.
 Blade Runner: The Final Cut (107 mins
The Final Cut (2007) reinstates much of Scott’s original vision. One of the distinctive additions is the editing in of the unicorn scene (42 mins), directly tying together with Gaff’s epigrammatic origami exegeses of Deckard’s character: in particular the unicorn left on his doorstep at the end of the film (111 mins, ); which when combined with Scott’s decision to cut the studio-enforced happy ending, seen in the theatrical release (1982) results in a sensorily disquieting and ambiguous dénouement, escalated by the darkly toned chiaroscuro and anxiously unsteady hand-held, tracking cinematography which cuts to black as the elevator doors slide shut on the fleeing Deckard and Rachael — to a progressively epic, swelling score by Vangelis (112 mins). All this intensifies the bombshell: how could Gaff have known of Deckard’s unicorn vision? It insinuates the aforementioned false validity of memory: “Implants!” (33 mins). Thus implying the unthinkable: could, unbeknownst to him and despite his career, Deckard too be a Replicant? An entirely new layer is thus added to the narrative, altering the film’s entire existential discourse and implications exponentially. Ridley Scott himself has commented of the inherently Noir mythos: "To me it's entirely logical, particularly when you are doing a film noire [sic]... the central character could in fact be what he is chasing" (Scott to Edwards & McKenzie, 1982: 29). However, the inherent flaw is that, if this suspicion is true, then the Human versus Replicant dichotomy breaks down, which largely drives the film. On the other hand, the uncertainty itself epitomises the film’s existential narrative: Replicant or Human, organic or synthetic, one is of the human condition.
Blade Runner questions what it means to be human and the validity of one’s experience. Film Noir mythology and aesthetic play a critical role in conveying the narrative’s themes and issues, not only by making the film visually resplendent, but by actively accentuating the cinematic artistry and focussing upon the visually critical and symbolic discourse. It lends itself naturally to the theme: this is Film Noir, ambiguity is requisite.
Blade Runner. (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott. USA: Warner Bros. [DVD]. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (5- Disc Ultimate Collectors' Edition) (2007). Warner Home Video.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut. (2007) Directed by Ridley Scott. USA: Warner Bros. [DVD] Blade Runner: The Final Cut (5-Disc Ultimate Collectors' Edition) (2007). Warner Home Video.
——————— Images , , , ,  from Blade Runner: The Final Cut. (2007) Directed by Ridley Scott. USA: Warner Bros. [DVD] Blade Runner: The Final Cut (5-Disc Ultimate Collectors' Edition) (2007). Warner Home Video.
Metropolis (1927) Directed by Fritz Lang. Germany: UFA. [DVD] Metropolis Reconstructed & Restored Masters of Cinema (2010). Eureka Entertainment.
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