The Blade Runner movies are filled with so many themes and messages. It’s no wonder especially how the first movie was adapted by the Philip K Dick book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Anything that has to do with Philip Dick will have symbolism all over the place such as movies based on his work: Total Recall, Minority Report, etc.
One of the themes which is a main focus for Blade Runner is being human, the empathy that humans have. It makes us question are we really human. Not literally but figuratively, do we have emotions if we do bad things. As much as that theme is present throughout two movies, there is another theme that is more subtle. That theme is loneliness and it is shown throughout both Blade Runner movies in many ways.
The setting of Blade Runner takes place in Los Angeles after some catastrophic event. Although it’s not entirely clear what the event was as many allude to nuclear war, the skies in Blade Runner are never sunny. We never see the sun in any of the films besides in the director’s cut at the end, and also a holographic projection in 2049. Nevertheless, for the most part, the setting of Blade Runner is either night time, raining, or in a rare case in 2049, where it wasn’t dark, but it seemed pretty foggy. The sky/weather is important because in real life the weather can impact moods. It has been studied that rain can make people feel dejected while the sun can uplift the moods. So for Blade Runner to never show the sun, and always show dark skies or rain, it conveys a dark depress mood for the audience, one that can allude to the feeling of loneliness due to it always being dark.
Another aspect that feeds into the feeling of loneliness is the population. In the movies, the story takes place in Los Angeles which is a big city. We see how crowded the streets are with a lot of people yet at the same time we don’t see much conversation. It seems as if everyone is trying to get to a destination, they’re always moving, or in their own world. By the movies showing us an overpopulated city where not much conversation happens we see how scarce interaction is in this world which can make a person feel lonely.
One important proof of this is in the first Blade Runner where Deckard kills Zhora in a busy street,. Although some people stop to see what has happened, it is shown that many are walking by as if they are oblivious to what happened.
This happened on numerous occasions such as when Deckard fought Leon, nobody came to his help. Ironically in both cases, the only person to pay attention where two replicants: Leon in Zhora’s murder, and Rachel when Deckard fought Leon.
A small point to be made about Blade Runner is how we never hear from the outside world. In the world of Blade Runner where they have technology to be on other planets, we never see that. One would think that we would get at least one glimpse of the off world colonies, maybe on the television screen, but we don’t. Instead of a visual commercial for the off world colonies, we get words on a blimp.
We don’t see the news or shows on tv, there’s no mention of the leaders of the world, or anything relating to what’s outside the city of Los Angeles. There is no connection to the outside world shown in the movies. That feeling of being in a secluded city cut off from everything, expresses the theme of loneliness.
One of the biggest showings of loneliness expressed is in Blade Runner 2049, specifically K. His life is the meaning of loneliness. He has nobody expect for an AI named Joi. Although he cannot physically touch her, we see that he truly loves her. This is shown especially when she “dies”, and he feels sad.
All that we see in Blade Runner relating to loneliness and disconnection can allude to our society and the future. A future where certain technologies used for fulfillment can make one disconnected from human contact and thus make them lonely. Technologies today such as real life sex bots similar to Joi, social media, and the smartphone. Now by no means am I trying to say that technology is bad, or that social media and other inventions are making people lonely. There has to be progress, and all new technology such as social media, the smartphone has good uses. What I’m pointing out is the connection between the symbols used in the Blade Runner movies, and things that occur in our society in which a person can surrounded by a lot of people and always be connected through technology, yet still feel lonely like in Blade Runner. That is why when we see Blade Runner it all begs the question, are we lonely?
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