Visuals Create Tension

In the film, Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scottthe scene where Rick Deckard first meets Rachael Rosen (16:57) is one the of the few scenes taken directly from the book. Set design plays a key role in this film, the stark contrast between Dr. Eldon Tyrell’s opulent pyramid-like home with the gritty city showcases the extreme difference in class in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  However, Scott’s use of the two-shot creates more of a tension in the film between Rachael and Rick than Dick creates with words. The fast cuts back and forth create a sense that Rachael is completely sure of herself staring Deckard down and having a response to each question, all the while acting very stiff and robotic. A cigarette cloud forms in front of her face (20:37) which creates the sense that Rachael is beginning to doubt herself and needs to hide her reaction from Deckard. Also, the use of an interposed dissolve into an establishing long shot (20:41) accompanied by Deckard and Rachael’s echoing voices creates a feeling of a long passage of time whereas in contrast to the novel which seems to move at a much faster pace during this point of the story. The visuals allow the audience to see how an android would supposedly act in such a setting when with words there can be several interpretations depending on the reader.

Elevation in Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Though I began to analyze particular differences from Dick’s book to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, one quality shared by the book and the film was a somewhat fascination with heights and an aerial perspective. One scene in particular from the film is when Rick is traveling via aircraft to the Tyrell Corporation building within the city itself (about 11-12 minutes in.) Even in the first image of the film (immediately following the logo) is an aerial view of Los Angeles- something that even reminded me of the cover of my copy of We by Zamyatin. In the book, the animals reside on the rooftops- something that didn’t provoke my interest until the aerial shots of the film, and this scene in particular as Rick takes in the sights of the sight along with us. This concept of seeing things from a birds-eye view, both through the images in the film as well as the concept of having the animals above everything else in the novel, elicits a particular capitalization on subjectivity and objectivity, something that I feel is among some of the main dilemmas within this narrative in particular. From this view, is one able to see things as they are, just as when encountering someone and not knowing the truth of their identity? Or perhaps it serves many purposes, all having to do with authenticity, perspective, and awareness.

Is Deckard Really Human?

“Then,” Miss Luft said, “you must be an android.”

That stopped him; he stared at her.

“Because,” she continued, “your job is to kill them, isn’t it?  You’re what they call-”  She tried to remember.

“A bounty hunter,” Rick said.  “But I’m not an android.”

…”Maybe there was once a human who looked like you, and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place.  And your superiors don’t know.”  She smiled.  As if inviting him to agree.

“Let’s get on with the test,” he said, getting out the sheets of questions.

Dick, 101-102

The conversation that Deckard has with Luba Luft at this point in the novel is particularly interesting due to the fact that she so cavalierly brings to the forefront the idea that Deckard could very well be an android himself.  With this, an important question can be asked: would Deckard in fact be able to pass the empathy test even if he was not an android?  Compared to the other humans and androids we have met thus far in the novel, he truly does not seem to possess a remarkable deal of empathy, and the fact that some humans with low empathy scores can be killed in the place of an android is indeed brought up when Deckard is interrogating Rachael.  Does he recognize that he, as human, is not a particularly exemplary example of one?

Further, although his contempt for andys is made quite clear, given the dense aura of paranoia and suspicion that Dick has already so beautifully executed by the time Luft and Deckard converse, it would be foolish for us as readers to ignore the possibility that Deckard may not be what he seems, either- even though it truly does not seem to be the case.  However, through the suspicion of Deckard’s questionable status as human, we can further examine what it means to be human–both as readers today and as people living in a post-World War Terminus San Francisco–and why exactly we choose these certain characteristics to determine whether or not others are deemed worthy of being labeled as “human”.