Notions of the Familiar and Unfamiliar in Blade Runner
Films intend to stimulate, inform and challenge us; there are many ways, both subtle and unsubtle that filmmakers use to express ideas and information. The notions of the familiar and unfamiliar are crucial to the construction of the science fiction film. The familiar is used to connect the viewer, while the unfamiliar is used to create a comfortable distinction between the film and reality and to show grand ideas that may not be expressed without far out imagery or iconography. The film Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott shows many notions of the familiar and unfamiliar for effect, these notions in many ways are crucial to the success of the film in expressing its message and ideas. Notions of the familiar and unfamiliar are expressed in many ways in science fiction films, a common way of doing so is through the iconography shown in the film. In the film Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott, notions of the familiar are important in creating a relationship between the world of the viewer and that of the film’s creator/creators. One way this is done in the film is through the many example of religious symbolism. This symbolism is shown in a very direct visual way, creating a strong impact on the viewer and is expressed as one of the main reference between reality and the film (Imc.gatech.edu, 2013). The Tyrell Corporation is in many ways symbolic of religion. Tyrell can be seen as a metaphor for religion as it is the creator of the replicants, humanoid cyborgs who have a dominant presence in the film. Tyrell and the replicants however seem to express the religious ideals of both good and evil, this is shown especially by Roy who is shown to represent Christ as well as Lucifer, he represents the leader of the fallen angels, who in Christian legend were expelled from heaven by God (Fried, 2004). Like the fallen angels expelled from the Lord’s kingdom, Roy and the replicants are doomed to a life of eternal suffering, where they only experience a hollow shell of human existence for a measly four years. This shallow experience is expressed by Leon’s statement that there is “Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch” (Blade Runner, 1982). This shows how unsatisfied he is with his shallow illusion of human experience of being a replicant, the same lack of satisfaction that causes Roy to rise up against the creator, Tyrell. Roy also in many ways represents a Christ-like figure; this is shown through iconography and religious symbolism (Martin, 2005). Since Tyrell represents God or the creator is symbolic when he says to Roy ”Look at you. You’re the prodigal son”. This shows both Tyrell’s son-like reverence and pride with Roy as well as Roy’s position in the hierarchy of the Replicants, Tyrell is God while Roy is Christ. This standing is further expressed in Deckard and Roy’s final confrontation. As Roy is beginning to expire due to his four year lifespan he violently thrusts a nail into his palm, an obvious piece of religious iconography representing Christ’s crucifixion. Just before his expiration is complete Roy saves Deckard from death, making him his saviour, just as Christ was the saviour of humanity. This can be seen as a final sacrifice and Roy’s redemption, his final transition from Lucifer to Christ. Then to complete the Biblical trinity shown in the film with Tyrell and Roy, he releases a dove, religious iconography that represents the Holy Spirit (imc.gatech.edu, 2013). This iconography is a direct link between the fantasy world of the film and reality. The notions of the familiar implied by religious symbolism gives the viewer an understanding of the unfamiliar notions of the replicants and the strange futuristic world of the movie. The iconography is one way in which science fiction differs from many other genres. Sobchack says in his article Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film that “One approach to the images in genre films...
Bibliography: Nebolit.com. Blade Runner Cinematic Techniques: Mise-en-scene, Available: http://www.nebo-lit.com/film/Blade%20Runner/Blade-Runner-Cinematic-Techniques.html
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