by Ethan Soffe
During Southampton Film Week, Solent University hosted a special screening of BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Denis Villeneuve 2017). The screening was accompanied with a talk by Professor of Film and Cultural Studies Will Brooker, who discussed his latest work: “The World Is Built on a Wall: Deconstructing Blade Runner 2049. In his talk, Brooker critically discussed the film, which is primarily centred around boundaries and maintaining order in a futuristic dystopian society. This was a captivating and insightful event and Brooker’s evaluation offered a fresh new perspective on the film, enhancing the viewing experience that followed.
Two of Brooker’s key arguments were how the film represents social hierarchy and order and how it symbolises the concept of “post-truth” throughout the narrative. An example of this is the idea of the boundaries of fact and fiction preserving truth and maintaining dominance within the film’s dystopian order. Brooker also examined how the film deals with the manipulation of facts to secure these societal boundaries. The plot of BLADE RUNNER 2049 concerns a long-hidden secret that is discovered and has the potential to significantly alter society. Brooker identified an extensive archive of records featured in the film and the crucial plot of concealing the past. He went on to draw parallels with these aspects and the current political climate, including Donald Trump’s fake news claims and Brexit.
Brooker highlighted his main arguments by discussing his idea that the past is an imperfect copy. He explained that the past never provides every answer to specific events; despite efforts of preservation, one piece is always missing. He emphasised this by demonstrating K’s personal odyssey of locating one of his memories as a child and his goal of seeking closure over his past. Moreover, he argued that 2049’s predecessor - BLADE RUNNER (Ridley Scott 1982) - is not a reliable text, due to the past’s incompletion.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 with Professor Will Brooker was a true highlight of Southampton Film Week 2019. It offered a unique perception of BLADE RUNNER 2049, which undoubtedly expanded and developed a more critical understanding of the film’s themes in relation to our current societal and political context. Having a film academic critique a narratively complex and dense film such as BLADE RUNNER 2049, along with a Q&A, made for a thoroughly engaging evening.