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A Level Film Studies - Focus Film Factsheet

Blade Runner
(1982, Ridley Scott)
• Deckard dream of unicorn/motif of photographs.
Component 1: Varieties of Useful for themes, time and identity - 40.43
Film and Film-Making (AL) • Roy confronts Tyrell. Useful for key themes
of identity and responsibility Key for
Core Study Areas: philosophical ideas of humanity - 1.20-1.23.20
Key Elements of Film Form
Meaning & Response
The Contexts of Film CORE STUDY AREAS 1 - STARTING
POINTS - Key Elements of Film
Form (Micro Features)
Specialist Study Area:
Context (AS & AL) Cinematography
Auteur (AL) • Shooting of street scenes using a high frame rate
to cause the effect of a pulsating, stilted feel to
Rationale for study the vivid and dominating neon signs and lights.
• Shafts of volumetric light are a recurring element
• A bleak and dystopian neo noir fable that draws in many shots as are searching lights shooting
on the conventions of film noir and science out of hovering blimps above the city, the shafts
fiction. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles in penetrate many scenes in the film and shoot
2019, a place that is simultaneously high tech straight through the darkness. These shafts of
and decaying. A weary and nihilistic private light illuminate very specific parts of the sets
detective/bounty hunter (Deckard) is brought and enhance the depth of the scenes because of
out of retirement to hunt down a group of their three-dimensionality. They have volume,
renegade ‘replicants’. Paired against the classic enhanced by the thick layer of fog that penetrates
noir femme fatale who is most likely a replicant most of the scenes in the film. This also creates
herself. A psychological battle plays out as this sense of off-camera space. The shafts of light
Deckard struggles to keep hold of his own sense rarely reveal their sources, but they suggest life
of self as the past, present and future are in and activity beyond the darkness of the frames.
flux. Prophetic issues of the insidious creep of • And in addition, the light shafts push forward
advertising images and societies run by mega this theme of dystopian oppression, suggesting
corporations rather than a democratic political a world where privacy is marginalized and
system loom heavily over the characters’ lives. no place is completely dark and isolated.
Impressively oppressive aesthetics crossing
at times into the absurd draw the spectator Mise-en-Scène
into a horrific version of the future that puts • Blade Runner has a highly distinctive visual
the death humanity at its centre through its style. Best described as ‘retro-future’ (akin
exploration of mortality, memory and identity. to steam punk). Dark crumbling buildings
reminiscent of great American cities now
in a state of entropy are juxtaposed with
STARTING POINTS - Useful teeming Far Eastern mega city shanty town
Sequences and timings/links communities and garishly brash off world
• Golden Opportunity/Questioning Leon. Scenes colonies. A post-modern architectural mash up.
provide useful introduction to Key elements of Much action on Earth takes place in the dirty
film form and introduce main themes - 7.20-15.35 and decayed streets that exist under a polluted
cloud. In this world, it rains continually.
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A Level Film Studies - Focus Film Factsheet

• Blade Runner pays homage to a film- urban USA with the rising cities of the Far
noir aesthetic with low key lighting, East, specifically Shanghai, the film lacks
high contrast images and dark, murky the inclusion of any black characters. Critics
environment in which paranoia, anonymity have argued that the replicants are ‘surrogate
and despair is the dominant mood. blacks’ in terms of their non-status on Earth
• Backlight, smoke, rain and lightning to and as fugitives from the off world colonies
give the film its personality and moods. who must be hunted down and eliminated.
• Neon signs loom heavily over characters Aesthetics (i.e. the ‘look and feel’
casting a sickly and unescapable presence. of the film including visual style,
Sound influences, auteur, motifs)
• Soundtrack by Vangelis is a dark • Dark, nihilistic and brooding, the film’s use
melancholic score that mixes traditional of mise-en-scène is impressive. Overtly ‘art
composition and futuristic synthesizers. directed’ with a post-modern bricolage aesthetic.
• The haunting saxophone ‘Love Theme’ Repetitive use of browns and blacks in the
brings a melancholic and fatalistic tone crumbling buildings and rain soak streets.
to the action and characters’ actions. Cold blue tinge to scenes of ‘artificial’.
• In this original release in 1982, the studio • The origami unicorn motif has stimulated
insisted that Scott record a voice over (from much debate with critics. Some see it as
Deckard) as they felt that the plot was too ‘proof’ that Deckard is a replicant who has
obtuse that audiences would be unable to follow been programmed with created memories.
the storyline. Scott resisted this but had to Scott inserts fantasy dream sequences of a
yield to the studio’s demands. The Director’s mythical unicorn, filmed in slow motion soft
Cut version, released in 1992 was without the focus. Meaning is ambiguous and unexplained
voice over. The voice over anchors the film but suggests a yearning for escape.
into film noir conventions. The hard boiled,
world weary, nihilistic commentary reflects CORE STUDY AREAS 3 - STARTING
the dystopian landscape where characters POINTS - Contexts
are disconnected from their environment.
Political
• Set in the near future, Los Angeles is under
CORE STUDY AREAS 2 - STARTING the control of a right wing dictator.
POINTS – Meaning & Response • Corporations in the form of the Tyrell Corp
Representations have come to dominate society. A dystopian
• The dominant representations of the male figure vision of the future where big business and
in film are negative. Deckard is trapped in a mega corporations dominate. Towering
version of masculinity that limits his emotional above the ordinary people in huge triangular
responses and internalises experience. Links shaped corporate headquarters, faceless and
with male self-destructive film noir characters callous megalomaniacs rule with a ruthless
is obvious. Other images of masculinity capitalist energy. They build off world colonies
draw on conventional ideas of power, control to fulfil the dream of escape and pleasure
and sadism. It is left to the male non-human whilst simultaneously destroying the Earth.
replicants to voice desire, fragility and any Technological
meaningful philosophical viewpoint. • Blade Runner engages directly with impact of
• The representation of women is narrow. technology on society and individual, taking
The female replicants are either constructed a philosophical viewpoint that poses the
as a male fantasy as sexual gratification question of what it is to be human. The power
or objectified for visual pleasure. Rachael of corporate private industry has taken the
fulfils the appeal of the ice maiden femme place of democratic society and is represented
fatale. The one sex scene between her and as corrupt and self-serving, manipulating
Deckard is also troubling as the encounter technological advances to enhance profit
is ambiguous in terms of sexual consent. and power whilst dehumanising people.
• Whilst Scott wanted the setting to merge • Scott imagines a future flying cars, impossible
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A Level Film Studies - Focus Film Factsheet

buildings and super-fast space ships. Characters as an auteur filmmaker based on his strict
live alone in decaying homes. Streets under adherence to his personal artistic vision as
constant surveillance and bombardment by well as desire to control production. Scott
crass TV broadcasts. Technology serves basic film is recognizable by its play of light and
human needs. At the centre of this is the shadow and near-lascivious love of sprawling
development of androids known as replicants wide shots and intricate detail. So exacting
who can pass for humans in all aspects except and skilful is the look of his films, that in the
morality. This difference that becomes the early days he was accused of favouring style
philosophical heart of the film around which the over content. The world he creates is much
key idea of ‘what is it to be human’ unfolds. bigger than the characters he placed in them
• We can use the auteur theory to assess
the charges of misogyny that have
SPECIALIST STUDY AREA - been made against Blade Runner.
Auteur (A Level only)
Starting points
• Scott’s roots are in art direction, for the
BBC, and advertising, he created his own
company in the late 1960s. Ridley Scott