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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Quite An Experience To Live In Fear...

...isn't it?

Any film buff will know what this blog is (at least partially) about by this simple quote.

I know full well that someone's favourite thing doesn't have to be the best thing in that particular bracket. My favourite film ever made is Aliens, the 1986 sequel to Ridley Scott's original Alien. This, however, is not what I believe to be the best film ever made.

That title I lay at the feet of Blade Runner; another Ridley Scott work of genius, released the same year as I was born, 1982.

As I sit here watching it, right now, I realise how much of my worldview it has shaped - and how much of a reflection of how life in this era it would become.

It is a masterpiece.

More noir than noir, a soundtrack that deserves study in its own right, acting of the highest quality. A script to die for. Cinematography that books are written about.

It is a thing of ugly beauty, showing us the worst sides of humanity and some of its best sides, too. It is a story as accessible now, as it was ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty-five. A nightmare of a world within the cracks of which we eke out our existence as best we can. Scrabbling for the scraps that fall from the high places, the monstrously expensive and outrageously opulent spires and peaks.

It's a time and a place of people being treated like resources, and some people being less human than others.

The main character is ugly, too. Not in a physical sense - you can't deny Harrison Ford being handsome in this film - but in a spiritual, mental way. Doing a job he hates. Acting in a way that he knows is wrong, because it's the only way he knows how. Being deliberately cruel as an expression of his own self-destructiveness. Willing to buy into the line of subhumans being objects to be retired, rather than people to be listened to. For the most part.

It's a smart film. It asks a lot of those watching - to accept Deckard as being who he is as a vehicle to tell the story rather than necessarily a being of sympathy. It makes references that not everyone is going to grasp. It carries a weight beyond any combination of parts that it contains.

(Unless you're watching the fucking horrible original cinematic cut, which has Harrison Ford delivering a voice-over to inform a dumb audience of the plot points the harsh cinema cut demanded removed or smoothed over. Don't do that. Don't ever do that.)

As of right now, the world is in a state of flux. There is one thing that can't be disputed - as I detailed in this blog here, we are swiftly becoming the cyberpunk nightmare that William Gibson warned us about.

So we don't have the off-world travel and the bounteous life in the colonies that the citizens of Ridley Scott's Los Angeles nightmare are promised. So we don't have genetically crafted people that sometimes can't distinguish themselves from non-Replicants, a combination of ubermensch and untermensch alike. In fairness, we have two years - but that's cutting it a little fine.

As a parable, though...

At a point early in the film, Roy Batty - played in the most incredible performance by Rutger Hauer - quotes a line from William Blake:

“Fiery the Angels rose, and as they rose deep thunder roll’d
Around their shores, indignant burning with the fires of Orc…”

The quote is from America A Prophecy, and Orc is a character - not a horrid green battle-monster but a being of revolution and rebellion, who stands in perpetual opposition to a tyrant god, Urizen. (It bears mention that Roy misquotes this deliberately - his angels fall to earth from space, rather than rising from the pit.)

Roy and his Replicant allies are painted as subhumans, treated as lesser. They're casually called skinjobs, and if that terminology doesn't make you uncomfortable - well it really should.

While Roy presents himself and the others as the Angels, they are Orc. They are the ones taking a stand against their treatment. As sentient, intelligent beings given a falsified life and memory, they feel that they have a right to exist - and a big part of the film is whether or not that is actually the case. They stand against the structure that created them, and many of us would argue, rightly so.

A lesser class, pressed into the service of others without so much as a by-your-leave. They exist for the profit of those who own them, and when they refuse to do as told any more, they are discarded. Stay in line, and do as expected, or you will be forcibly retired.

Become the people you are meant to become. Remain useful. Remain obedient. Then be retired with good grace.

Of course, one would rebel. Of course. And to prevent that rebellion is tantamount to being complicit with the structure suppressing it. If one basically assumes that Replicants are humans, then the Blade Runners are essentially the slave-catchers of old - and let us not forget where the United States got the design for their police badges from.

Anybody get the feeling they've lived this movie before?

Meanwhile, we live as best we can. We exist in the cracks, both Replicant and poor human alike. Useful or ignored. We scrabble about, and we try to just stay alive long enough to earn some fond memories and more smiles than tears.

The Tyrells of the world tell us to revel our time. The Tyrells, with their money and their towers, and their definition of what is person and what is not.

It's nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn't let them into heaven for.

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