Textual form is an issue which divide many critiques and audiences. Some view texts as a form being superior and more expressive, whereas others may view film as to be losing its credibility of expression. Never the less it is adamant that through a comparative study of two differing forms exploring similar ideas it becomes clear that one form isn’t always superior over another. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) mirror this thesis. Whilst being composed more than a century apart, each explore similar ideas but approach them from different perspectives.
Shelley’s epistolary novel reflects a period of Romanticism and Enlightenment through its glorification of nature, as well as its cautionary like tale of social responsibility and exploration of creator verse created. Scott’s science fiction film Blade Runner conveys the many fears surfacing from the United States in the 1980 by warning of the possible dangers associated with environmental deterioration, scientific advancements and genetic engineering. Scott scrutinizes such concepts as a world without true nature, and, like Frankenstein, the consequences of a lack of social responsibility.
Shelley masterfully uses literary techniques to create her timeless classic. Similarly Scott achieves a similar prestige through his use of filmic techniques. Nature is a powerful idea explored in Frankenstein. The idea of sublime nature was embraced during Romantic period of the late 18th Century. It allowed an unrestrained emotional experience for the individual. In ‘Frankenstein’, descriptions of nature seem to appear repeatedly during emotional or significant moments in Victor’s life. Nature allows an outlet for Victor, it acts as his savoir. This connection is expressed where Victor travels back to Geneva to see his family.
Here he witnesses the might of nature and its power. Such examples of this include the pathetic fallacy of ‘lightning playing on the summit of Mont Blanc’ with lightning being a recurring motif in the novel expressing how nature, whilst having to power of destruction, also has the power to illuminate and make clear. Nature also acts as a savoir to Victor in a time of sickness ‘bestowing’ on him the ‘most delightful sensation’ therefore conveying once more his connection and dependence with nature. Just as ‘Frankenstein’ glorifies nature, Blade Runner explores a world where nature has become virtually obsolete.
This mirrors the public’s thoughts in the 80’s of a continued deterioration and the consequences of our overuse of nature. The opening scene of Blade Runner uses filmic techniques such as chiaroscuro to reflect the lack of nature present with the entire landscape being industrialised. The pollution of the city drowns out the suns’ light, meaning all present lighting is artificial, reflecting a world with no natural warmth or clarity. The close up fade of the eye expresses a fire burning within, a possible allusion to Hates and the underworld.
The non-diegetic music played is synthetic sounding, providing an eerie setting, further enforcing a lack of nature. A lack of social responsibility is evident in Victor concerning the Creature setting up a creator verse created situation in Frankenstein. The monster reflects context of Tabula Rasa, he is a blank slate; completely innocent until experience creates perception. ‘Cursed, cursed Creator! Why did I live … I know not: despair had not yet taken possession of me’. Shelley here uses rhetorical questions and emotive language to express the feeling of the Creature.
The Creature believes that the blame for his suffering and pain lies with Victor’s cruelty and neglect of his creation rather than pain and anger being something innate in him. Victor through his lack of responsibility for this creation created an outcast of the monster leading to its pain. Shelley shows this in the biblical allusion ‘I ought to be thy Adam …I was benevolent and good: misery made me a friend’, once again strengthening the readers opinion that the creature’s suffering could have been avoided if Victor had shown sympathy towards him.
Just as the monster confronts Victor in Frankenstein, Roy also confronts his creator Tyrell, in Blade Runner. Roy, being a result of genetic engineering, plays out the mindset of the public in the 1980s that eventually the birth of our advancing science may one day turn on us. The scene features shots filled with religious iconography with Tyrell draped in luxury with lit candles providing the only light in the room. The chess game which Tyrell and Sebastian are engaged in is a metaphor for the capturing of the king with the king being Tyrell and Roy achieving “checkmate”.
The two shot of Roy and Tyrell during their confrontation is one of the few in the film and displays Roy as a dominant figure indicating a power shift in their relationship. Tyrell clearly acknowledges this shift when he backs away from Roy in fear. Roy is moved by this meeting as to him Tyrell is God, his creator, which is conveyed in the quote “it’s not easy to meet your maker”, a biblical allusion expressing the enormity of the meeting from Roy’s perspective.
It is now clear, through the comparative study of ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Blade Runner’ that a comparative study of two textual forms only enhances our interest in discovering the parallels present between them. ‘Blade Runner’, being a film, has clearly shown to be able to explore similar ideas as ‘Frankenstein’, a novel. Each thoroughly explores nature and its influence on the public of their time as well as the lack of social responsibility each creator had towards his created, and the consequences of those actions. Thus it is evident that difference in textual form does not weaken the depth in which similar parallels can be explored.
Courtney from Study Moose
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