Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) based of the novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick holds many fascinating and deep themes, some obvious and some more subtle.
One theme in particular, is that of eyes and for those who have seen the film multiple times, you are able to see Ridley Scott’s use of lighting, cinematography and definition to emphasise eyes as focal points, no pun intended.
In the opening scene we see the futuristic and somewhat dystopian Los Angeles where the buildings are tall, sharp and fill the entire screen. Some buildings shoot fire out the top while others are filled with rows of lights, through the scenes of landscapes we are shown an eye looking at the city watching as fire flies out of the buildings and engulfs the iris with flames and ominous lights that continue to the horizon; this could be a metaphor of our eye watching the mass of human production and destruction as we cannot stop it. Straight away, in the opening scene we are shown an eye witnessing the havoc and chaos of the city, this could be a clear indication to focus on what our eyes see and what experiences they hold or how we can watch such devastation and how we are unable to stop it or even in some case, we don’t want to stop it.
Through the film we see two scenes where characters take a test called the ‘Voight-Kampff Test’ that is used to evaluate whether someone is a human or an android (replica). The test is a series of questions that will trigger an emotional response. The machine used is similar to a polygraph machine but it has a screen that monitors the eye and is able to pick up minute fluctuations in the eye or blushing of the face when asked a question. One scene in particular, a replica is asked to describe good memories of his mother in which he ends up shooting the interviewer, this brings up my point earlier of how our eyes are used as the tools of experience and how we can physically see the emotions we witness.
In the final scene where our hero and anti-hero are in a face off there is an amazing monologue given by the anti-hero, which invites us to consider whether some people fight for what they believe in solely because of what they have experienced. The anti-hero says “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” and continues with an example of awesome destruction and inspiring beauty, he closes with “all those moments will be lost…..in time…..like tears in rain…..”. The poignant moment of realisation that this ‘villain’s’ only purpose was to keep those moments he has seen and to cherish them. In a previous scene the anti-hero seeks out one of his makers, literally the eye maker and tells him “If only you could see what I have seen with your eyes”. Every perception or image we see gives us a memory and catalogue of events and emotions which shape our evolution, so whatever you have experienced as a human has shaped you into who you are today, such as a child watching a learning channel.
In summary the film wants us to understand how important what we see in life is. For those moments may be forgotten but still remain and if they do, will have some impact on who we are. Such as a quote by Shakespeare or the bible (depending on your belief) “eyes are the window to the soul”. Hopefully next time you watch or read Blade Runner, you might reconsider the eye, its link to memories and emotions and how this all affects and shape not only the characters in the film but the very foundation of self.
Thank you and keep watching.