Ridley The Human). Memory is thus, in

Ridley Scott’s 1982 production Blade Runner (Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”) marked a change in film, becoming a new form of film noir, a combination genre of neo-noir, but also cyber-noir. It has complex sci-fi elements that set it apart from other works of that kind. The style is gritty and dark, portraying a dystopian world dominated by strong technologies. A key theme throughout the work which many critics have discussed is memory, and how memories and personal identity set replicants apart from humans. According to Philosopher John Locke in his essay Concerning Human Understanding, the self is “a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself.” (Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.) This is applicable to the idea of the replicant, androids so close to what we know as humans. (Dick, Philip K. The Android and The Human). Memory is thus, in Locke’s view, a necessary condition of personal identity.  This essay will discuss the importance and representation of memory in Blade Runner. An important factor in determining whether a being is a replicant or not is the Voigt-Kampff test, designed with a series of questions to reveal a replicant. It shows whether they show empathy like humans do and in the same ways, which is rooted in a person’s memory. For example, one of the questions reads “You’re watching a stage play… The guests are enjoying an appetizer of raw oysters. The entree consists of boiled dog stuffed with rice. The raw oysters are less acceptable to you than a dish of boiled dog. How does that make you feel?” (Blade Runner, 00:20:45-52.) Based on the answer, you are able to know whether this being feels empathy towards the dog or not, like a human would, because dogs have been normalized as pets, a companion to humans. It reveals that the replicant does not have a broad emotional range, unlike humans. Memories are the main reason for emotions as certain events will leave their mark on a human’s identity. Thus it portrays memories as vital for someone’s basic emotional range. The character of Rachael plays a key part in the audience’s understanding of the replicants. She is an experiment and shows different behaviour than the other replicants. The reasoning behind this is that she has memories and believes she is human: “Implants. Those aren’t your memories. They’re somebody else’s. Tyrell’s nieces.” (Blade Runner, 00:32:30-45.) Following Deckard’s statement here, Rachael begins to cry which shows that she is capable of emotion easily, arguably more easily than the other replicants. The reason for this is rooted in her memories and someone questioning what she thinks she knows triggers an emotional reaction. Rachael has a full lifetime of memories that she believes to be true, in contrast to the other replicants which may only have the memories they have created since being made. She is not aware of her true form until Deckard reveals it to her in the film. Another replicant, Dean, also has false memories implanted. Tyrell, the creator of the Nexus 6 group and owner of the Tyrell company, claims that “If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion” for memories. (Blade Runner, 00:22:01). While this may be true, Dean’s behaviour differs from Rachael’s. Despite this, it is argued by Judith Kerman that replicants can “love, hate, dream, think, grieve, feel loyalty, generosity and yearning.”  (Kerman, Judith. Retrofitting Blade Runner.) There is some truth in this; Roy Batty grieves for Pris heavily and he is definitely capable of strong hate. But this could either be due to the memories they have created and the likeness built together being the same species, or the basic emotions learnt from other humans. As mentioned above, Roy Batty is another replicant and also leader of the Nexus 6 generation, a true genius that is aware of his own power and abilities. He is a significant character because he appears to have built his own memories and personal identity based on events he has experienced in his short life. While searching for his maker, Roy says to Chew (the maker of his eyes) “you people wouldn’t believe what I’ve seen with your eyes.” (Blade Runner, 01:42:00.) His use of irony and choice of words infers that Roy believes he has lived precisely the same way as a human and has experienced everything that we experience through our lifetime. This shows that Roy, as a replicant, could be a thinking intelligent being with much assistance from the memories he has created. As Tyrell says, “You were made as well as we could make you.” (Blade Runner, 01:21:29). Furthermore, Ridley Scott has included a metaphor throughout the film: the eye. Semiotics of the eye shows that it often symbolises the window to the soul. The eye first appears at the beginning of the film in a close-up shot, bright blue and looking at the camera. According to Kerman, “although the eye’s owner is not shown, only Batty could have a blue eye like that one.” (Kerman, Judith. Retrofitting Blade Runner). The use of the glow in the eyes of replicants appears multiple times, achieved by the cinematographer shining a light along the optical axis of the camera. (Herb A. Lightman and Richard Patterson, Cinematography for Blade Runner). It is a visual effect that only happens to replicants. The eye is metaphorical for a person’s mind and what they have seen in their time. The idea that the eye belongs to Roy Batty suggests that he is all seeing, almost a god-like being that has experienced everything that a human would and has a range of memories stemming from different things. Progressing on to the technologies of the film, Scott has chosen to use low lighting and desaturated tones, keeping it dark and dull. This is typical of the noir genre. (Filmsite, Film Noir). The setting of a dystopian Los Angeles, presented in noir style, makes the audience question what may have happened to create this unfamiliar place. The artificial urban images reflects an unsettling mood and expresses fears about complete domination of technology. Although the familiarity of this setting could make the audience doubt their own memories. Back lighting is used a number of times, creating the effect of a silhouette, for example near the beginning when Deckard is looking through a pile of photographs, shown in a medium shot.  As a silhouette, there are no differences between humans and replicants. They become one. This shows that it is not their physicality that tells them apart, it is their personal identities as a result of memories and experiences. The idea that perhaps replicants are beyond memories is compelling. They are expertly advanced and this may be the reason for their emotional range, not memories. But memories still play a key part, particularly for Rachael. It can be argued that the replicants are a replacement of the real. As stated by famous postmodernist critic and sociologist Jean Baudrillard, something can successfully be the same as the familiar if: “it is the reflection of a basic reality.” (Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra & Simulation). To Baudrillard, the inability to tell the ‘real’ and the ‘simulation’ leads to hyperreality. This is shown in his famous Disneyland analogy: “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation.” (Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra & Simulation). This is discussing the boundaries between reality and an image, the replicants being the image. It suggests that replicants, as advanced as they are in the film, begin to collide with humans. Furthermore, the use of artificial animals e.g Rachael’s owl and Zhora’s snake, goes on to show how it could be hyperreal and how the gap between them and humans is barely visible now because technology has developed massively. With the assistance and importance of memories, they are becoming as close to humans as possible. As Tyrell says, “More human than human is our motto.” (Blade Runner, 00:21:44). Moving on from this, the popular theory of Deckard and whether he is a replicant is important here. At the end of the film, Deckard is seen looking at the ground and we see a close-up of an origami unicorn, left there by the other Blade Runner, Gaff. We know this because Gaff creates multiple origami animals throughout the film.  This could be a reference to the daydream Deckard has which includes a unicorn in a forest. If Deckard is indeed a replicant, Gaff would have access to his memories and this shows that he knows of his real replicant nature. Scott also uses photograph props in Deckard’s apartment. The aforementioned  photographs, of which he has many, is a metaphor for memories. They are memories in a physical form. Replicants have a taste for photographs, because it provides a tie to a non-existent past. (Lacey, Nick. York Film Notes “Blade Runner”). Photographs are also very easy to come by, shown in the scene when Deckard prints out a picture of Zhora to assist his hunt. This shows how possibly easy it is for replicants to access memories over their time. This further emphasises the importance of memories and makes us question the truth behind Deckard. Furthermore, Rachael starts off not knowing that she is a replicant at all. “She’s a replicant, isn’t she?” (Blade Runner, 00:21:20.) “She doesn’t know?” (Blade Runner, 00:21:34). As a result of the memories Tyrell gave her from his niece, she believes she is human and has no doubts at the beginning, almost as if Scott is doing this to suggest we need memories and experiences to make us human. Thus we have no way of telling whether Deckard is a replicant or not, if he is as advanced as Rachael and does not doubt himself. In conclusion, Scott presents memory as an important part of Blade Runner and our understanding of the replicants, and how they differ from humans. Whether the replicants are more advanced and don’t need memories the same way humans do, it still has a pivotal role in personal identity. As Locke says, “as far as a consciousness can be extended backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity of that person; it is the same self now as it was then; and it is by the same self with this present one that now reflects on it, that that action was done” (Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding). Memories create identity and while a person does not change, they develop, and for the replicants, their likeness to humans increases. 


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