It’s not easy to come up with words for something that has such a profound impact on your life. Some of you may laugh to hear that a film has such an effect on me, that I’ve seen it over 100 times and I still find new things to enjoy inside it. In some ways, Blade Runner is a Rorschach, revealing patterns that reflect the internal mental state of the viewer.
My first memory of the film is watching it on my parents’ huge TV in the den, the box that gave you a nasty electric shock every time you pulled the big “on” knob (there were no remotes back then). I remember being fascinated with Rick Deckard’s gun, as all boys are with guns, and I remember being haunted by the echoing mewl of a cat in the final scenes of the film. It was only years later that I realized where I had heard that mewling before: Perseus encounters a similar cry of cats in Clash of the Titans.
It also wasn’t until later that I developed a deeper appreciation for the film. My cousin once pointed out that the origami was reflective of Deckard’s mental state, and after re-watching I began to notice many more things: all the replicants were associated with animals, they had more emotions, it seemed, than the humans that created them, and their eyes glowed yellow. When I noticed that Deckard himself had glowing eyes in one brief scene, I began to wonder, “Is he a replicant too?”
There are nuances in the film that, when I describe them to people, they tell me I’ve seen it too often, that I’m reading into things. Then I kindly point them to a newspaper article or an interview with Ridley Scott who reveals that those nuances were intentional. I can think of no film besides 2001: A Space Odyssey which has paid so much attention to detail. It’s like viewing your favorite painting. There is no way to take each and every brush stroke in in one glance. Repeated viewings are necessary.
And so it was with great excitement that I saw Blade Runner: The Final Cut on Tuesday night. I saw singing Hare Krishna’s on the subway ride there. It was raining for the first time in weeks, and I snapped the Bladerunneresque photo above. I took these as auspicious signs. About a dozen friends and relatives joined me in the famous Ziegfeld Theater, which added to my anxiety. Was the film going to be substantially different from the versions I had seen before? There were two novices among us, two who had never seen the film. Were they going to see the beauty in this object of art I had invested so much of my life in?
I think they did.
There were dozens of small changes in the film, extensions of scenes, a few lines added here and there, detail added at every opportunity. Upon rising from my seat at the end of the film I immediately thought that there was no great difference between the “Director’s Cut” and this “Final Cut.” But over the next two days, and on further reflection of all the new material, I found a new appreciation for this last version. I saw the film as a great unfinished painting that at last permitted the master to give his final brush stroke.
This feeling is symbolized by the end of the film, when Roy Batty releases the dove. In earlier versions, we see a cheap metal box, a pipe clearly from the prop department, a blue sky seen nowhere else in the film. In this version, the dove flies away into the dense city, the city with so much detail, like a favorite painting, I will have to revisit again and again to take it all in. I’m supremely glad I had the opportunity to see this version for the first time with friends.