Structure and the Gothic in Ridley Scott’s BladeRunner

A typically gothic device is to create of oppositions between “the very modern and the ancient or archaic”.  A sense of dread is built as “everything that the characters and readers think that they’ve safely left behind comes back with a vengeance” (Bowen).  In Bladerunner, there is a beautifully dark and gothic style apparent in the architecture of the city, within an iconic symbol of the high tower or dark castle.  Castles as a gothic motif usually contained a dark secret.  They conveyed a sense of mystery and foreboding and contained hidden rooms, winding staircases, sections of ruins, and grotesque artwork.  The skyline depicts a dystopic Los Angeles, darkly lit and atmospheric, with a constantly falling acid rain.  The city is a single conglomeration of many cultures with one language or “cityspeak”.  The gothic skyline of the city visually resembles a darker, urban version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927).  Within Scott’s sinister metropolis looms the gothic castle of the Tyrell Corporation as a giant pyramid, a mystical symbol that is typically associated with the great eye of the Illuminati.  However, the pyramid in Bladerunner is not Egyptian, but flat-topped like the great temples of the Mayan-Aztecs.  Mayan design and architecture is also inserted into the mise-en-scene of Deckard’s apartment and in Taffey’s Snake Pit bar where Deckard finds Zora, the Replicant.   The significance of the flat-topped pyramid in Mayan culture suggests both the ancient and the supernatural, as it was typically where Mayan priests performed ritual human sacrifices.  This allusion of an ancient evil as a structure of power inserted into the skyline immediately establishes a sense of gothic foreboding, or the uncanny.

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