Los Angeles in 2019,Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a blade runner. He is part of apolice unit charged with tracking down the replicants. The replicantsare androids whose appearance and behavior reproduce so well the menthat it is very difficult to recognize them. They are even capable offeelings, and artificial memories have been implanted upon them onwhich they build their character. Although born adults they have alived experience, a personality and are plagued by certain internalconflicts. Only their physical strength and their agility farsuperior to that of normal individuals differentiates them, as wellas a certain tendency to insubordination.
They were declared illegalon earth after a mutiny, and only serve to do dirty work in the spacecolonies. At the beginning of the film, we learn that 6 of themescaped and managed to reach the Earth. A Deckard colleague, Holden,managed to flush out one but was seriously injured. Deckard is thesecond on the list of the most competent blade runners, mainlybecause of his insensitivity, which protects him from any pityregarding human beings.
I will at firstintroduce the movie genre including the film as a whole and then Iwill study the opening sequence. To begin, Bladerunner is a science fiction movie because it is locatedchronologically 37 years after the date of its realization. What is ascience fiction movie ? Science-fiction doesnot belong to the supernatural, and wants to be rational, which istypic from Blade Runner with all the futuristic replicants andtechnological progress. Here, 2019 is seen from a 1982 point of view.Urbanism has accentuated its vertical dimension of the cities: theimmense skyscrapers are still dominated by explosive oil torchesspreading out of factory chimneys. Like that of Tyrell, companiesare fortified castles and vehicles move in the heights of cities; theground being for commercial or emergency vehicles only. The socialdifferences have increased: coexist buildings dilapidated, forinstance that of Sebastian, and high-tech buildings, that of Deckard,yet hardly high socially. Racism has disappeared becausecosmopolitanism is the rule.
Nature is gone, the animals are almostall artificial. Although Sciencefiction does not really interest Ridley Scott . In fact he is muchmore fascinated by the fantastical dimension of the movie and thequest for identity of his hero which makes him a film Noir character.The Noir genre can be distinguished from the Detective of Gangstermovie as its focus is dedicated to the victim. In the three-partdrama that is played between the executioner, the victim and theRobin Hood, the film noir also excludes focusing on a character whohas entirely passed on the crime side or who, on the contrary, has amoral conscience that guides his actionl. The concept of victim mustthus be understood in a broad sense.
It is also being a victim ofcrime to have to protect one’s life at the cost of unwanted murder.Unlike the gangster, the occasional criminal is, in most cases, avictim of his environment. Crime is the only possible alternative ina world, real or not, with no way out. The origin of Noir film isrelated to the deterioration of the economic and social situation.The dockers of San Francisco went on strike in 1934 and 1937 as wellas the General Motors workers in 1936 and 1937. And that same year,the iron and steel industry suffered a particularly severe crisis. Freud’s theories andpsychoanalysis mark the film noir with his amnesiac heroes, hauntedby their past, and who seek indications allowing them to find theiridentitiy.
Here in accomplishing his mission, Deckard will eventuallyfind himself. “I think so I am,” said Pris as a desperatejoke about his robot nature, but it’s good when he accomplishes hismission that Deckard will know who he really is. Blade Runner is alsoa fascinating movie because of lights effects. When Rachel is gettingready for the Voight-Kampf test. A blue light, whose source isinvisible, falls on her back, obliquely.
Rachel is “out oflight”, as if to indicate that there is no safe place for her inthis world. Blue lights are often used in movies to reproduce a nightscene. Then Deckard has his face cut offin two by a beam oflight that is no longer oblique and blue, but horizontal and yellow.
These two lighting effects are linked by a false connection (rupturein the coherence of the luminous atmosphere from one shot to another)leaves Deckard’s eyes in the dark and insists on those of Rachel,whose polygraph studies the reactions. In Blade Runner, the light isentirely artificial, even in outdoor scenes; it constantly changesdirection, intensity and coloration, favoring the plan on the stage;light plays systematically against the actors. After talking aboutthe shape and the background of the movie, I am going to make a planby plan sequence analysis of the opening scene. This analysis of ascene is mainly intended to try to understand the impact of thedirector’s choices and to try to break through his staging.
In everyshot of a movie there are a lot of things that have been thoughtabout while others are left totally to chance. But it is this”creative dynamic” that sometimes gives meaning to theinsignificant or unreflective events of filming. We face a Noiropening scene.
Three muted bass sounds are heard. “Los Angeles,November 2019″: the catch and the date of the action issomething enigmatic. The musical theme is first announcedunaccompanied, surrounded by a vast reverb, bringing out a hugeemptyness however the titles of the credits follow one another on ablack background (in the 1992 version, a drop-down notice alsoexplains the origins of the word ” replicant “). Then, onthe first images of Los Angeles in the near future, it will becompletely taken up on vast and long synthesizer chords, like a bigorgan. The concept of the beginning of the film is clear: the musicaltheme, symbol of the film, installs a certain epic atmosphere, butalso creates, before the curtain raises, a sort of void. Then thescreen is filled with an amazing explosion of colors and sounds. Mostof the time the spectators do not realize that the theme they hear onthe first images is strictly the same as the theme of the credits.
The plan closes with a black closing on this last carton of thecredits. I think the choice of the month, November, is not innocent.Indeed it is often considered the saddest month of the year. Then the camera movesforward with a wide tracking shot. We notice typical Noir genrepatterns with sounds and visual explosion. Flames are explodingliterally like spurts to punctuate this aerial view. The megalopolisappears to us as a dark mass which multitudes of lights constitutethe unique details. Heaven and earth seem to be confused.
A flyingengine arrives towards us from the bottom of the image and alightning then tears the sky as soon as it leaves the field. We willsee during this sequence that everything is perfectly orchestrated,to give this impression of mobility. Each time the camera will move,an element will intervene in the image, linking each shot, in a slowand calculated rhythm that will continue throughout the film,highlighting the oppressive side of the atmosphere in order to bemore realistic. In fact the city is a total invention and does notexist, so they had to find a way to make it look like a living city. Soon after thetraking shot gets tighter. There is a focus on a flame that springsup, it seems to come out of the ground, as if responding to thelightning and throws a sheaf of fire. The elements are unleashed. Thevery violent cut allows Ridley Scott to get closer to the heart ofthe city while keeping the subtle tracking very fluid.
He leads usunconsciously in a kind of apocalyptic universe. This world isimmersed in the mist and this movement is perceived as wandering.Hence the need to have a guide who appears to us in the form of aflying engine which red light at the back pierces the dark sky andgoes to the bottom of the image. His input is brought by a few notesabove the others in the musical score that turns into a buzzimmediately resumed by the sound of the reactor at its entry into thefield. Music, sound and image are in perfect harmony as in a balletdoes not occur all the time during the movie. After the city thereis a kind of seizure and fixed plan with the extreme close up of theeye. The disappearance of the engine gives way to a very large planof the eye in which the lights of the city are reflected.
RidleyScott cuts through from a very large to a very small plan scale. Theeye is an attractive image but with its various cinematographicrepresentations has become worrying: it is the “eye ofconsciousness”, consciousness being one of the fundamentalthemes of Blade runner. The appearance of this eye has somethingunusual.
One could have the impression that the whole city rushesinto this eye (the spectator then realizes that it is probably theeye of the man located at the window of a pyramid). The eye is ofextreme importance in Blade runner: it is through it that onedistinguishes the human from the android thanks to the Voigt-Kampftest. I have to note that the megalopolis and the eye occupy on thescreen a place and an importance less proportional to their sizes. Then the shot is alittle tighter but still in tracking shot. Ridley Scott continues hiscutting by approaching successive shots of the two pyramids whilekeeping a transition between each shot to not lose the fluid movement”approach” to which the viewer does not pay attention.Without realizing it, he will find himself “at the foot” ofthe pyramids.
He discovers in this plan the purpose of this planingshot, the ship passes by the side of the pyramids, leaving the fieldon the left, as if he had fulfilled his mission now that we have thembefore our eyes . The transition to the next shot will take place,again, when it disappears. The two pyramids are massive and dominant,like two mausoleums to Tyrell’s glory. Moreover the bright whitelights directed towards the sky give a divine impression. Here againas I already mentioned in my first part, lighting is a key elementfor the spectator’s perception of the movie even though it does notplay infavor of characters it has a huge role for setting.