Sunday, 24 May 2015

Androids Have Existential Crises Too.

Just saw Blade Runner on a terrible DVD rip on an age-old CRT monitor. Didn't affect its quality though.  I loved it but was a little underwhelmed. That happens a lot with classics. When you watch them, you find them reductive. Everything you see in them has been copied upon and often improved. I admired Blade Runner's grand but gloomy industrial landscape. It's sci-fi with noir approach but the proceedings felt a little off-key

And then the climax hit me like a bullet train. Firstly there's Rutger Hauer's epic monologue as the main villain as Roy Batty. He plays the leader of replicants, an android workforce with sentience and a short lifespan. They are mostly used for grunt work in space and for some odd reason aren't aware that they are replicants. So when 4 replicants rebel and try to find a way to lengthen their lives, the task falls upon blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to find them and hunt them down.

The chase is interesting enough but it reaches its peak at the end. An exhausted Roy is at the end of his thread. The female replicant he loved and his other allies have been gunned down by Rick. The two men meet, as they must in a desolate abandoned building. And as per noir custom, it's pouring down. Roy and Rick engage in a game of cat and mouse. Roy, fully feline even howls like a wolf. By the end, Roy's battery is draining, he has but a few minutes to kill Rick. Then something surprising happens. Right when Rick is dangling by a pillar on the roof of a building, Roy jumps over and saves him. Then he delivers this monoloue.

Legend has it Hauer improvised the entire monologue. Whether that's true or not, it's one of the best monologues commited to screen and Hauer sells the hell out of it. It makes his Roy look more human than all the characters in the movie. It makes us see that he too felt, that he too loved, that he too deserved the luxury to live. And like any other human, he feels the need to have someone bear witness to his life and death. Maybe that's why he saves Rick. Or maybe he realises that for all the lives he took, he couldn't save his own. So to bring an end to the violence, he saves Rick. And that's just one small part of the movie - the entire movie can be interpreted in multiple ways. Why, for example, Tyrell, the man who invented replicants, treats them the way Frankenstein treated his monster?

The film packs multiple religious references too. After a dying Roy loses his ability to control his palm, he puts a nail through it to attack Rick. But in the end he doesn't really hurt Rick. And then you can't help see the parallel with Jesus, who by his end also had nails driven through his palms.

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