Ben Wheatley's reflections on Blade Runner

Leading from




a) Introduction to Blade Runner
When Blade Runner cam out in the cinema, Ben Wheatley was about ten years old and too young to see the movie in the cinema but he was very aware of it. And so the first time he came into contact with it was in its Marvel comic form. It was a brilliant adaptation, and so for him it was the only real concept he had of it for a long time. The he read the Philip K Dick book and would get into the film quite late on.

b) Watching Blade Runner
Ben watched Blade Runner many times, bought many times on different formats, he didn't think it was a film suited to VHS video tape because there was so much stuff in it, but watching it on blu-ray justified buying a big TV and a Blu-ray player. He saw it at the cinema many times, bought books about the making of the film and watched all the documentaries that he could get his hands on. Why he liked it was that it was a film that transported him to somewhere else. It wasn't even about the story which was reasonably straight forwards for him, it was the texture of it, every frame , every grain of the film, and even every pixel on the Blu-ray holds information. It's so densely packed, he could watch it again and again and see different things in it all the time. Although there were several versions to be found on blu-ray, of the two main versions, the modern version where they cleaned it up and took away the voice over was the one that was better for him, and he had never really experienced the voiceover version on anything other than VHS
 
c) His analysis
For Ben it seemed as if it was a certain period for Ridley Scott with Alien and all his adverts around that point, and it's just never dated.  He would think of the film as British because it was the culmination of 10 years of ad-making in the UK. He recalled that Ridley had filmed over a thousand ads during the 1970s. Ben had seen a lot of key ads but not all of them, and he wanted to see what he was producing prior to those films, and he found that really really fascinating, not just because he shot adverts. He thought that Ridley was obviously projecting a future 1970s himself, a glamorous version that never really existed, tapped into that nostalgia for a 70s, which resulted in optimistic, nostalgic messages about Britain, exemplified by Scott’s famous Hovis ad. Something like The Black Hole made around the same period to him years later would look like something from the 1940s in comparison to Blade Runner, and if Blade Runner could be made today, it wouldn't look any different. Blade Runner would become the definitive image of what the future is going to look like and in that way it seemd to ruine Sci-fi since everything would become Blade-Runnery, and half way through the second decade in the 21st century, it would be either that or looked as if it had been designed by Apple. And so for him Blade Runner would go as a pair with Alien.
  1. Ben Wheatley:  Again, a film I watch a lot, I watch it every year or every six months, and I always see new stuff in it. And in the same way that I feel about some of Kubrick’s work, it’s a film that on the surface has a very simple kind of plot, but the visual side of it is so seething with ideas - boiling with ideas and information - that it can be experienced again and again and again. More information bubbles up to the surface each time. If Ridley Scott had never made another film, that would have been fine.
    I really enjoyed watching Black Hawk Down, I think that’s my favourite of the post-Blade Runner movies, and Thelma and Louise as well. But there’s a magic in Blade Runner, and an intensity that you can see in him that you can see in the 'making of' stuff. That and Alien are a pair. Possibly because he’d come off that intense period of ad-making.
    (http://thequietus.com/articles/19898-ben-wheatley-film-bakers-dozen?page=9)
  2. Ben Wheatley:I guess I’d start with Blade Runner, which is a film I’ve watched many, many times, and bought many times on different formats, and seen in the cinema many times, and bought books about it and read about the making of it, and watched, you know, all the documentaries that I could get my hands on. I think why I like it is that it’s a film that so transports you to somewhere else. It’s not even just about the story, which is reasonably straightforward, it’s the texture of it — every frame of it, every grain of film, or every pixel on Blu-ray or what not, holds information. It’s so densely packed. You can watch it again and again and see different things in it all the time. That’s the genius of it. I think that period of Ridley Scott, with Alien and all his adverts around that point… I mean, it’s just never dated. If you watch something like Black Hole, which is kind of around the same period, and you look at it, Disney’s Black Hole looks like a films from the ’40s in comparison to Blade Runner. Blade Runner could be made today and it wouldn’t look any different.

    Luke Goodsell: Which version of Blade Runner do you enjoy? Because there are several variations of it now.

    Ben Wheatley: Yeah, I mean there’s only really two, isn’t there? The modern-modern version where they’ve cleaned it up. I must say I’m a fan of the non-voiceover version. That’s the better one for me. I’ve never really experienced the voiceover version on anything other than VHS.

    Luke Goodsell: You were too young to see it when it came out?

    Ben Wheatley:   Yeah, I was too young to see it in the cinema, but I was very aware of it. Probably the first time I ever came into contact with it was the Marvel comic. It’s a brilliant adaptation. So that for me was the only real concept I had of it for a long time, and then I read the Philip K. Dick book. I think I got to the film quite late on. It was a grower, for me, just like one of the other films on the list, which is The Shining. It’s the same thing, where you have a relationship with it over time, and it gets better the more you watch it. Also, Blade Runner isn’t the kind of film that’s suited to VHS. There’s just too much stuff in it. I watched it again recently on Blu-ray and it was just incredible. That alone justified buying a big TV and a Blu-ray player.

    Luke Goodsell: It’s fitting that you choose The Shining, too, because the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, of course, infamously uses outtake footage from Kubrick’s movie for the final scene.


    Ben Wheatley: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s true. I forgot about that. The music at the end of it also reminds me, weirdly, of Sonic the Hedgehog as well. There’s a whole level of that set in a city that I’m sure is very heavily influenced by Blade Runner. But yeah, the music is really incredible, as well. Vangelis’s music is just unbelievable in Blade Runner. (https://editorial.rottentomatoes.com/article/five-favorite-films-with-ben-wheatley/)
  3. Ben Wheatley: I'm calling this British because it's the culmination of 10 years of ad-making in the UK [Scott made his name directing commercials]. I've bought every book about it and studied it, I buy every reissue and have seen it many, many, many times. It's just a brilliant film, the story's interesting and it still looks gorgeous. The special effects stand up: how that's possible, I don't now, because other films of the period look terrible now. Blade Runner is a definitive image of what the future is going to look like, it's kind of ruined all sci-fi in a way, because everything is a bit Blade Runner-y now — either that or it looks like it's been designed at Apple. (http://www.esquire.co.uk/culture/film/interviews/g9684/the-21-british-films-you-have-to-see/)
  4. Jamie Sherry:Jeremy Thomas said you watched Ridley Scott’s commercials as research for High-Rise.
    Ben Wheatley:Yes. Scott talks about that work on commercials as being the basis for much of the work he eventually did on Blade Runner and Alien; he said he filmed over a thousand ads during the 70s. I had seen a lot of the key ads but not all of them, and I wanted to see what he was producing prior to those films. I find that really fascinating, and not just because I shoot adverts. He was obviously projecting a future 1970s himself – a kind of glamorous 70s that never really existed. It tapped into that nostalgia for a 70s, which resulted in optimistic, nostalgic messages about Britain, exemplified by Scott’s famous Hovis ad. (http://www.ballardian.com/working-for-the-building-an-interview-with-ben-wheatley)


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