Riding the Waves to Eternity

Hangin' with the Cosmic Surfer

Skip to: Content | Sidebar | Footer

Electric Sheep

7 October, 2017 (12:56) | Uncategorized | By: Ian Burdon

I haven’t yet seen Blade Runner 2049, but I am reminded of something I wrote on my former blog nearly a decade ago

I have spent a pleasant morning and afternoon watching two of the five disks in the Blade Runner, Final Cut boxed set. Disk 4 looks at all of the elements which went into the film – set design, lighting, costume and so forth. It is almost perfect but something has been niggling me about it and it is only now that I’ve pretty much watched the disk through that I realise what is missing – the soundscape and, most of all, the wonderful soundtrack from Vangelis. There is some discussion of it on Disk 2 in the analysis of the post production process and the quality of the soundtrack is given due attention and appropriate praise there. However other similar releases (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) give much closer attention to the soundtrack and this one doesn’t. This is a major omission and both a great surprise and a very great shame.

One of the segments discusses one of the burning issues amongst Blade Runner afficionados: is Rick Deckard a replicant? Interestingly this is discussed purely in terms of the film. In part this may be because of the differences between the book and the film but it does seem to me that the book (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) is important because the underlying question of Deckard’s humanity – and the nature of humanity – is the key theme of the book.

In the book it is humans who dream of owning electric sheep while the androids dream of being fully realised humans. However Dick had a further twist – dreaming of owning electric sheep as a status symbol is so far from Dick’s concept of being human that the humans might as well be androids and thus a vicious circle of meaning is set up and explored. Since Deckard dreams of electric sheep he might as well be an android, but if he is an android then by dreaming of electric sheep he has reduced himself to the level of humanity. Ridley Scott, in making the film, planted lots of clues that he believes Deckard is a replicant/android but also leaves scope for ambiguity (and from the deleted scenes the ambiguity is deliberate because some of the clunkier suggestivities have been excised). In this sense it seems to me that for all the manifest difference between novel and film, the core of the novel has been retained: it is the consequences of asking the question which are more important than anything so crude as the answer.

We’ll see how the new movie deals with this in due course.