Blade Runner

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*SPOILER ALERT*-The clip and the following commentary make explicit references to details of the film’s plot. Viewer/reader discretion is advised.This clip is a snippet of the climactic confrontation between Rick Deckard and Roy Batty from Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film “Blade Runner”. The film portrays Deckard’s mission of stopping the Replicant Roy Batty from his quest of prolonging his life. This clip shows Batty’s gradual acceptance of the role mortality plays in defining a person’s life and Deckard’s realisation of what it is to be human.

The clip starts with Deckard on the ground shuffling backwards, away from Batty with a look of clear incredulity on his face. Prior to the start of this clip Deckard in his attempts to hunt down Batty puts himself in the precarious position of dangling helplessly from the roof of a building. Batty, instead of killing the man who has thus far hunted and ruthlessly killed his replicant companions, saves Deckard by pulling him onto the safety of the roof. This completely unexpected act of mercy by Batty not only astonishes Deckard but also confounds all of the audience’s notions of humanity. At this moment in the film’s climax it is Batty who is much more human than Deckard. This is visually represented in the clip by the fact that Batty is standing tall in a superior position to Deckard who is on the floor.

There are other visual elements that help to signify Batty being more human than Deckard. Firstly, there is the matter of the costumes of the two characters: Deckard is wearing a large trench coat against the rain, over his regular clothes, whereas Batty is naked apart from a pair of black shorts and shoes.  If we read the rain, which is constant throughout the film, as a metaphor for cleansing, then the trench coats worn by Deckard could be interpreted as being symbolic of his narrow mindedness i.e. not acknowledging the sentience of replicants. By contrast Batty’s near nakedness can be seen as a symbolism of perfection, indeed as an artificial human he was designed to be as near perfection as possible. Continuing on from reading the rain as a symbol for cleansing we can see that Batty’s exposure to it serves as a way of showing his open mindedness and ultimate acceptance of his fate.

There is also the visual representation of the dove in Batty’s left hand. The dove as a symbol of life is in the palm of Batty’s hand and yet in this clip it is made clear to the audience that Batty realises that he cannot hold on to life forever and that he no longer wishes to find ways to extend it. Therefore as Batty reaches the end of his designated life span he lets the bird go, symbolising that he has chosen to embrace his mortal nature.

Prior to releasing the bird however Batty boasts of his moral superiority and also of the fact that he has “seen things” in his relatively short life span that people like Deckard “wouldn’t believe”. He then goes on to describe all the things he has seen and makes the poignant observation that all the extra-ordinary moments that he has witnessed will be “lost in time, like tears in rain”. The wistfulness in his voice suggests that those moments are so special to him because of the fact that they have gotten lost and he cannot recapture them again. Batty’s memories become a metaphor for his life as well, as he realises that the only reason he cherished life so dearly in the first place was because he was afraid of his impending death. After all his struggles he has finally realised that what makes him more than a replicant and almost human is his mortality. His life is precious because of mortality and all the things he has seen and done in the short time allowed to him.

Throughout Batty’s monologue Deckard does not say a single word but stares at him with incredulity and after Batty’s death he merely sits there looking at Batty’s corpse for a significant amount of time. This change in time is shown by several methods: firstly there is a sudden use of slow motion and a fade between two scenes suggesting change in time. Secondly there is the breaking of dawn as shown in the sequence where the dove flies away, followed subsequently by daylight. Since it is only dimly light at the start of the clip, the emphasis on the sunlight clearly signifies a shift in time between Batty’s passing and the appearance of Gaff.

Deckard does not seem to realise that Gaff has arrived as he is still looking at Batty’s corpse as if in a trance. The trance is broken by Gaff’s proclaiming “you’ve done a man’s job sir” where the emphasis on the word “man” is meant to highlight Deckard the human’s superiority over Batty the replicant. To this Deckard says his only word in this entire clip with utter disgust: “finished”, suggesting that he recognises the significance of Batty’s final act and Batty’s moral superiority. The word “finished” also has connotations for the rest of the film as it suggests that Deckard is too disgusted at himself to continue to work as a Blade Runner and end the lives of sentient beings.

Gaff seems to understand what Deckard has apparently decided and he also knows why Batty’s noble death has had such a significant influence on Deckard. In the course of the film Deckard falls in love with a replicant woman and as a Blade Runner it would be his job to end her life as well. Batty’s words have made him realise the horrors of his work. To show Deckard that Gaff knows what he is thinking he says “it’s too bad that she won’t live”, with the “she” clearly referring to the female nexus that Deckard has fallen in love. His mock regret also alludes to the fact like Batty; the female Nexus too is on a limited life span. But then Gaff says as an afterthought “but then again who does”. Gaff’s two lines are perhaps the most important in this clip and maybe indeed in the entire film as he explicitly points out that there is not much in difference between humans and replicants as humans too are mortal. Gaff’s last two sentences stun Deckard as he finally realises that like replicants, he too is mortal and like Batty he must try and make the most of the time that he has.

One Response

  1. The thing that really bugs me about this movie, (which I considered to be the best of all time, until Cloud Atlas came out), is that we suddenly see Roy Battie with a dove. I agree with the symbolism, but WTF did the dove come from! It should have been shown. either Roy caught the dove, or it lands on his shoulder or something like that. Instead we get a parallel to the Old Spice commercial ending, “I’m on a horse.” Roy could say, “I’ve got a dove in my hand.” WHAT!?!?