Up until a month or so ago, I had never seen Blade Runner. Crazy I know, but I wasn’t raised to have an affection towards movies, especially ones that challenge my reality and society at large. The timing of me experiencing Blade Runner, and the soundtrack by Vangelis for the first time was perfect. I was building a very long dystopian themed DJ set for a party at True Love Art Gallery in Seattle. After downloading the Blade Runner soundtrack, I spent a long time listening to it before I saw the film. The music Vangelis created here works really well with the often times dreary look of Washington, and I developed my own narrative driving around the city. I recommend using his music to soundtrack your own driving adventures, it’s relaxing and surreal.
So after hearing the music on it’s own for a while, I finally got to watching the movie, and since then have watched it close to a dozen times. These have all been of the Director’s Cut, with the voice-over’s taken out and the additional scenes put in. Early this morning I watched Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner; a three-and-a-half hour documentary taking you inside the development and execution of the film, complete with all the difficulties involved with it’s production. It can be easy to view a film like Blade Runner, recognize it’s significance, but still not understand the depth of pain and suffering going on behind the scenes to get the final result.
Adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by Philip K. Dick, it took several other choices and a fair amount of convincing before Ridley Scott agreed to take on the project, originally titled “Dangerous Days”. Scott was in the process of directing Dune, but a combination of slow filming pace and the death of his older brother lead him to the task of bringing Blade Runner to life. The final title of the film came from William S. Burroughs Blade Runner (a movie), a science fiction novella and proposed screen adaptation of Alan E. Nourse’s The Blade Runner. With a small budget and a script originally written by Hampton Fancher, re-written by David Peoples, the film was on it’s way. Blade Runner eventually got the approval of Philip K. Dick, after he read the re-written script and saw a special effects reel, demonstrating what this world would look like. He said that Ridley Scott perfectly realized the environment he imagined in his novel.
Scott named French comic series Heavy Hurlant, aka Heavy Metal and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks painting as influences for the style and mood of this science-fiction noir film. Interpretations of a worn down Hong Kong and the industrial landscape of northeast England where Scott was from, were also used.
I was amazed by lengths Ridley Scott and his team went to make the world of Blade Runner as real as possible. The building of the city, the props, the costumes, the miniatures were done with the utmost precision and care. The crew worked at night, outside, in the rain almost all of the time. You’ll have to watch the documentary to see for yourself, but it’s astounding and incredibly inspiring. Ridley Scott took charge of some many levels of this film’s creation, taking talented people and bringing them up to a much higher quality level. Many feel that the roles some of these actors played in the film (Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, Joe Turkel etc.) are some of their best performances ever. During filming, Scott would blast the early Vangelis music for the film from speakers on top of the buildings, so everyone felt completely immersed in the environment.
Vangelis is a Greek composer best known for the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire. He is a genius in my book, for his perfect audio representation of Blade Runner. It’s dark, it’s melodic and emotionally gripping from start to finish. The combination of classical composition and synthesizers encapsulate the film’s themes around what it means to be a human.
For all the incredible, forward thinking elements of this film, the audience in 1982 wasn’t ready. With E.T. dominating the movie theater experience, people wanted something more utopian, more positive. A small group of people held onto the film, recognizing it as a revolutionary presentation of the future, and over the years it gained recognition and respect. It’s reassuring to see that a film I instantly understood as mind-blowing was seen as bizarre and unintelligible to many at the time of it’s release. Some things take time for people to fully understand, and the first reaction is not the best way to calculate something’s importance and worth. Blade Runner is to many, the ultimate science-fiction film noir, and it’s influence and legacy are constantly evolving.
– Jimi Jaxon