For my video essay assignment I finally completed my long overdue video discussion of the motif of eyes in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). I love how visually lush Blade Runner is when it comes to themes, motifs, and larger ethical questions about the human condition. Where Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was a sterile vision of the future punctuated by a monolithic jump in universal consciousness—Blade Runner is a gritty, retro-fitted struggle over creation. The realities of exploited bodies, exploited labor, and the exploited environment takes on new dimensions when the underlying sanctity of humanity is problematized—and contains the time-honored themes that made the HBO series The Wire so compelling: how our culture has dehumanized the people within it. The film marks the moment of the commerce of the human soul on an industrial scale, one wherein humanity itself is purely a product. And for that reason alone there are few more horrific visions of the future than Blade Runner, but all the while it is laced with poetry and a sense of hope, however meager. Signs of the highest achievement in my mind.
Anyway, I really wanted to keep this video essay short and somewhat conversational. I noticed I pause a lot when talking, and I had to do a bit of editing to work that dead air out. This commentary was a first pass, and it’s really focused on the motif of the eyes. I wasn’t really able to expand out about the replicants as labor, exploitation of the environment, a corporatized future, etc. Nonetheless, I do enjoy how focused this essay can be, and hopefully it brings out how rich film can be when an extended visual metaphor is handled with such subtle brilliance and care throughout the film. The themes in many ways take over the film through the camera, rather than the narrative or plot. Once you start thinking about the motif of eyes in Blade Runner it is kind of hard to stop, and for me that says something powerful, or does it show something powerful? 🙂