Obsession: Blade Runner
The film presented a vision of the future far removed from white clinical environments and aliens from outer space. It was far more believable and worrying: a future governed by large corporations and controlled by cyborgs -'replicants' - and technology. To depict a realistic vision of urban life in 2019, Scott enlisted the help of Syd Mead as the film's 'visual futurist'. Mead was an industrial designer who had worked with Ford designing concept cars and on the interior of Skylab for NASA. He could draw beautifully and had produced a book named Sentinel: Steel Couture full of futuristic concepts that had a clear set of socio-economic principles, and that were also technically feasible.
Together Scott and Mead created a complex cityscape, melancholic and devoid of nature, drenched in acid rain, with glimpses of brightly lit neon advertising. It was a world where existing buildings and products were retro-fitted with new technology to prolong their life. It presented a dystopian near-future metropolis -a visual feast for my young, design-student self.
The attention to detail and the number of products developed for the film were incredible. For transport, Mead conjectured that there would be three modes of transport: a utilitarian bus for the masses, a car-club scheme, and finally a flying autonomous car that could travel on the high-level freeways. Perhaps the most interesting product was the Voight-Kampffmachine used to detect replicants. In the film, this machine appears to be alive as its triangular lens piece rises like a cobra and focuses on the subject's iris, while its bellows slowly breathe, sniffing for signs of emotional responses to questioning -technology is used to measure human empathy.
Although the film is now 35 years old, it still provides me with inspiration and the questions it raised then are still relevant today.