Sunday, January 05, 2003

Virginia Postrel is apparently receiving an e-mail deluge from people who believe that Blade Runner is Philip K Dick's vision rather than Sir Ridley Scott's, as she claimed. I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously, given that Scott made a book adapted from Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? , then the answer has to be "a bit of each". Scott is certainly responsible for the visual style of the film. That said, the style is in keeping with the sort of semi-post-apocalyptic worlds that Dick favoured, and that are in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep . Phil Dick unfortunately died before a complete cut of the movie was assembled. However, he was shown a 20 minute reel of some of the highlights of the movie before he died. According to Paul Sammon's book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner Dick had this to say upon seeing the footage

"How is this possible? How can this be? Those are not the exact images, but the texture and tone of the images I saw in my head when I was writing the original book! The environment is exactly as how I'd imagined it! How'd you guys do that? How did you know what I was feeling and thinking?!

And of course, the film is entirely about the key questions that come through most of Dick's work: What is it to be human? and What is real? . The plot is quite different from the original book, but it is about the same things. The sorts of ethical questions that led to Virginia bringing up Blade Runner in the first place are questions that constantly fascinated Dick. The third key contributor to the film was the first screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who originated the film project and who were more responsible for the structure of the film than anyone (including Ridley Scott). To extent Fancher took the story away from Dick's original sensibilities, but Scott brought it back. The unicorn is a very Dickian devise, and that was entirely Scott's. The "Deckard may be a replicant" suggestion was there in the book, and while it was not entirely absent from Fancher's versions of the screenplay, it was given much greater emphasis by Scott.

One of the great things about Blade Runner is that although it was quite different from Dick's original text, it was very true to the spirit of it. No other film of a Dick story or novel has come as close: certainly not Spielberg's Minority Report which seemed determined to remove all the Dickian elements of the story. The first two thirds of Paul Verhoven's Total Recall actually does a better job than you might expect: although the film then turns into "Arnold solves all the problems by shooting everyone else on Mars", unfortunately. And we shall see what John Woo and Ben Affleck come up with in their forthcoming film of Dick's Paycheck.

My compliments to the British government for recently knighting Ridley Scott. He richly deserves it. Now, if the academy could give him his much deserved Oscar some time, that would be even better.

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