(This is an updated version of an article I published on my personal blog in January.)
Some time back, I watched Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner for like…the umpteenth time. Not to be morbid or overly dark (though, as you know, I am a fan of dark stories and poetry), but since I turned 60, I have been thinking of death a lot more. As I am now 65 and have a shorter life ahead of me than behind me, and being at an age where my generation is dying off at an ever faster pace, I think about it even more. Sometimes, though I am in relatively good health compared to many of my age, I am absolutely terrified of it.
I started watching Bladerunner just to chill and get my mind off things, but I went to bed before it finished. The next night, I still needed to get my mind off some things and to chill, so I returned to watching Bladerunner. But this time, I saw a theme in it that I had never recognized before, especially when I was younger.
That theme is how the attitude with which we approach death and how we live our lives accordingly. I don’t know how blind or how big a fool I could have been not to have noticed this previously. I suppose it was just that I was enthralled by the action and the love story of Deckard and Rachel. Once you recognize the theme, the story seems more like a myth out of ancient times.
Look at it as if Roy and the replicants were people in some ancient tale. Here’s a incredibly brief summary of the plot.
Two men and two women, who know they are going to die soon, undertake a pilgrimage to find their maker and persuade him to extend their lives. Ironically, an assassin is sent to kill them, because they should not be on the same world as their maker (whom I see as their metaphorical god). This potentially shortens their lives even more. One man and one woman are killed, but the other two manage to find their maker, Tyrell. He tells them that he made them as well as he could, but he could not find a way to lengthen their lives though he tried. He tries to comfort them by mentioning all the wonderful things they have seen and saying that “the life that shines twice as bright, burns for half as long”. The man, in frustration and anger at the maker/god for not being able to extend his life, kills him. The assassin now shows up and kills the woman. Then the man chases the assassin with the intent of killing him. But all the while he is pursuing the assassin, the man is dying. When he finally catches up with the assassin, being at the point of death himself, instead of killing the assassin, the man sits down with him and speaks of all the marvelous things he has witnessed and that “all these moments in time will be lost like tears in the rain” (a beautiful analogy, by the way). Then he dies. Then the assassin runs away with a woman who had the same creator as the others and with whom he is in love, but who happens to have a longer lifespan than the others.
Are we not in a parallel situation as the replicants? Our lives are short and we want them to be longer, but (so far as we know) our god could not make them longer. It is what it is. Our lifespans are what they are unless they are shortened even more by some external force. If we could, how many of us would try to find our maker/god and try to convince him to prolong our lives? But if He could not prolong them, would He try to comfort us by reminding us of all the things we have seen and experienced?
The theme seems to be that we should accept death as inevitable and our lives as too short, but we should also comfort ourselves with remembering all the good things we have experienced.
There are a lot more subtleties that I could extrapolate on, but to me this is the essence of the Bladerunner story.
Am I on the mark or off base? Is this being simplistic? Drop your thoughts into the comment box below.
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