BLADE RUNNER 2049 (4): the strange void of subjectivity

“There is no subject without an incomplete Big Other” Slavoj Zizek

The original version of BLADE RUNNER had neither the voice over by Harrison Ford nor the happy end showing the escape in the car. Supposedly this was felt to be too confusing for the ordinary viewer and the contextualising narration was added, along with the traditional Hollywood happy end, to give coherence to the montage. A visual summary of the different versions can be found here. Ambiguity and incompleteness are an essential part of the mode of enunciation of Ridley Scott’s film.

Denis Villeneuve’s sequel re-inscribes this ambiguity and incompleteness at the level of content. The replicants’ inserted memories are incomplete fragments, ambiguous and unreliable, yet, as we have seen, this messy aspect makes them real even though they are not authentic.

K’s inquiry-cum-quest for closure reveals him to be even emptier than he thought. He is not only officially programmed for obedience and equipped with false memories, but his entire “secret”, unofficial history that he uncovers is itself a fabrication

The revelation that his previous “revelation” (he was the first replicant born, not made) was false leaves him in a state of subjective destitution even more thoroughgoing than that of Rachael in the first film.This subjectivity as unprogrammed void is what there is in replicants that is “more human than human”.

Deckard declares, to justify his abandoment of his and Rachael’s child “Sometimes to love someone, you gotta be a stranger”. This statement has more far-reaching import than he realises, as behind our familiar roles and cherished memories there is the strange void of our subjectivity. To be human is to be a stranger.

The true anamnesis is not the recollection of facts and anecdotes about one’s past life, but the discovery of this pure subjectivity void of content and the retroactive perception that it was present all along.

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