Aesthetics & Identity in Blade Runner

PrefaceThe Gothic : IntroductionGothic Aesthetic TechniquesTransgression and AbjectionTerror, Horror and the SublimeThe Gothic and the Postmodern • Blade Runner : Introduction • Power in Blade RunnerReality in Blade RunnerDeath in Blade RunnerIdentity in Blade RunnerRestorationConclusionWorks Cited

Blade Runner

Blade Runner takes place in a, not so distant, future. Technology has evolved. Earth has become a third world entire; anyone with the sufficient monetary means and the connections, has fled to colonies in outer space. I say fled, in that Earth, if one judges from the sinkhole that Los Angeles has become, is the stuff of nightmares. Whole sectors have been abandoned to rot away in darkness. The sectors which are inhabited, on the other hand, are a teeming ethnic melting-pot, a heterogeneous mass of humanity that threatens to consume and disperse you. Cultural differences and icons have been reduced to ornaments, bent in neon. There is no consistent style or markers of identity. Gothic columns interrupt the cityscape, rising from out of the trash. The city‘s only coherent features are the dark and the rain. Everyone appears to be in transit. Scavengers scratch a living off the remains of the city. Los Angeles, anno 2019, has become an in-between. An abject, dying city that everyone is trying to get away from.

The sublime is invoked at the very beginning of the film. The cityscape is awe-inspiring and, because of this, therefore also terrible. The Tyrell pyramids rise as a glittering mass, with all the majesty and impenetrability of mountains, from the sombre, amorphous depths of the city. The orange horizon blazes with light pollution. We cannot tell if it is day or night. Burners emit surges of fire in an orgy of production and industry, but invariably also imply destruction and images of Hell.

The sublime is found not only in the film‘s cityscape. Four primary sources of terror can be identified in Blade Runner; power, (the lack of) reality, death, and (the lack of) identity.

© 2010, 2011, 2012, 2019 Kirstin Sørensen

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