Track 45 left, part 3

Think for a moment about the deal between photographer and audience. A photo is a set of choices, the deliberate selection of a moment, of frame, lighting and viewpoint. All of these choices are the prerogative and responsibility of the artist. Cinema has a similar ethic. No matter how many times you see a given cut of Blade Runner, you will see the same sequence of images. The aesthetic choices have been baked in.

What Ridley Scott was up to, I think, in the famous “Enhance 224” scene, was a challenge. He was asking us to question the definition of “image”. What if an image were not merely an image, but rather a universe of possible images? This would fundamentally change the relationship between artist and audience.

This doesn’t mean that creators would cede all control. For example, a sculpture can be seen from an infinite number of viewpoints, yet sculpture is still a medium that gives enormous control to the artist.

Rather, I think Ridley Scott was hinting at a possible future for cinema itself. Suppose you could enter into the world of Blade Runner, peer around its corners, see some of Sebastian’s other creatures, maybe even visit the out-world.

In more than one sense Ridley Scott was being a visionary. Because now, more than three decades later, the capabilities hinted at in that scene are just beginning to become possible.

5 thoughts on “Track 45 left, part 3”

  1. Great blogs on BLADE RUNNER!

    Did some research. Enhance 224 is referred to in the script as the Esper Photo Analysis scene. So, I became intrigued about “why” the machine was called Esper. From one source, I found that the very name ‘Esper’ is a term used for psychics and other supernaturally gifted people, so the reference may be a riff on the machine that it can do something completely outside the bounds of reality.

    In fiction, an esper (stylized as ESPer) is an individual capable of telepathy and other similar paranormal abilities. The term was apparently coined in this sense by Alfred Bester in his 1950 short story “Oddy and Id” and is derived from the abbreviation ESP for extrasensory perception.

  2. Cynthia: Great research! But actually, that is exactly the reason I have not been referring to the scene as the “Esper Photo Analysis scene”.

    If you look at the February 1981 script by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, you see that there is indeed an Esper in that scene (in the usual meaning of that term, as an individual capable of ESP).

    But the Esper is not the photo enhancing machine. Rather, the Esper is an A.I. that Deckard can call up to ask questions. In fact, the Esper, which also shows up several times later on in the script, specifically mentions the photo enhancing machine in the third person when talking to Deckard.

    It seems that the Esper never made it into the film. Although you never know with Ridley Scott. One or more Espers might show up in a future Director’s Cut. 😉

  3. It’s interesting to think about how this is going to impact the art of filmmaking. So much of the director’s contribution at the moment is in guiding our focus to some specific point, and that seems to be a pretty direct outgrowth of the human activity of narrative consumption. Films adorn narratives with rich texture of sound and image, but those have mainly been adjuncts to the narrative so far. With VR cinema, it seems like narrative will have to be pushed further to the side, as the audience makes moment-to-moment choices of texture on their own.

    Or, I’d like to see a VR movie platform with a ‘narrative pause’ option that would allow the rest of the world to continue evolving (weather, traffic noises, distant crowds moving, etc.), while plot elements stay put.

    Or maybe we’ll consume movies over larger periods of time, like with novels. Individual scenes would be very long in comparison; the characters would just do their thing on a more realistic time scale, instead of the highly focused synopses contemporary movie scenes are. When the characters go for a picnic, you really sit down and enjoy the park for a while with them…

  4. One other thing: it seems like this would open an industry for creating re-usable interactive movie settings—super high quality simulations of coherent environments. There would probably be 15 films a year licensing the Woody Allen Manhattan World, for instance.

  5. Well, yeah, but because that one’s in black and white, you might be able to get it at a discount. 😉

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