Over the past few months, I have been hard at work on a short film series known simply as Echelon. Set in a futuristic dystopia, Echelon criticises contemporary political policy regarding economy, as well as exploring the harmful impact of individuals’ decadence and, ultimately, the end justifying the means. Naturally, I’m taking influence from other films and real world events, and in this article series; titled Influences; I explore the former. This week, I’ll be looking at Ridley Scott’s gritty sci-fi classic, Blade Runner (1982), and how it has influenced me in imagining a new world.
Set in 2019 Los Angeles, and based on the Phillip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), Blade Runner is a dark vision of a future where man’s wanton greed for more has taken its toll on the world. From towering furnaces, great pillars of fire spew into the smoggy skyline, and only the glowing blanket of the massive city below matches the intensity of these fierce bursts of light. Focal in all of this are two gargantuan, metallic pyramid-type structures; lavish in a sense, and dwarfing the city around them. For all else, this is an industrial wasteland where people (swarm-like in nature) wade through the squalor and masses.
This new world erupts in thunderous magnitude, and we are met with the bustle of its people. As loud and as brash as they are now, but on a significantly greater scale, there is little solitude from the sound of man’s ‘progress’. The following clip, though short, captures this intrusively lively atmosphere, and characterises futuristic Los Angeles as overrun and repugnant:
From the offset, Blade Runner presents the viewer with a potential not so far from our own: void of natural beauty at the hands of heavy industrialisation, as if its innocence had been stripped from it and all those within the city. This trait is one I seek to parallel with Echelon. It is important that the greed of man, as well as his capacity for unbridled ruthlessness, is presented clearly. Partly, this is to be shown through the tone of the piece: through the context provided by dialogue, character and narrative. However, and this is where Blade Runner serves most influential, the visual and audible aesthetic will serve as fundamental mechanisms for conveying such a message.
Red, orange and yellow embers will act as a fiery backdrop to immerse the viewer into a hell on earth, demonising the new world for all of its failures in preserving any semblance of scenic splendour. Whilst conversely, grim and dark blue hues will illuminate those unfortunate enough to live in Echelon. The purpose of this is to instil a sense of seclusion and depression, it is important that these lonely and broken characters are contrasted against a world growing ever more ferocious and domineering.
In turn, the isolation these characters feel will be matched through sound. As in Blade Runner, this is a future where the world is massively overpopulated – to the extent that there is no escaping from the monotonic blur of noises that come from busy city life. However, this will ultimately be much like a distant hum that drills on both softly and relentlessly. In itself, it will be a constant reminder that these characters are truly, and desperately, alone. For a reference point, here’s a loop of ambient sound from inside Deckard’s apartment (my favourite part is 22:18, but you can probably get away with listening to any of it…):
So that’s about it for now! Blade Runner is one of my favourite films, so it was very difficult to not consider examining it. Next time, I’ll be exploring the influence the Caped Crusader has had up to this point, particularly in exploring character.
- Dreamy Blade Runner Soundscape (reelstrangedays.wordpress.com)
- BLADE RUNNER Interpreted As You’ve Never Seen It Before… (aintitcool.com)
- An Artist Recreated Blade Runner in 12,597 Water Colour Paintings (gizmodo.co.uk)