Jessie Kuei-yi Chu
Dr. Kate Liu
Postmodern Film and Fiction
Journal of film
Personal History in Blade Runner and Calendar
Under the domineering power of mass media in postmodern world, visual images become a way for an individual to identify things and to construct sense of self. Through seeing the images, people connect themselves to others and constitute personal history. In Scott Ridley's Blade Runner and Atom Egoyan's Calendar, the protagonists all construct personal history through ocular images. Deckard and Rachael in Blade Runner use photos in their childhood to confirm the past history and the present self; on the other hand, the photographer in Calendar use videos and photos (in the calendar) to see his past self and to reconstruct his Armenian Canadian identity. Both films elaborate seeing inscribes the past, that's memory, and consolidates the viewer's identity of the present self.
In Blade Runner, Rachael shows a fetishistic attachment to the photos in her childhood. To identify with the fraudulent photos produced by Dr. Tyrell is Rachael's epistemological process as a human being. This process of perception also conceals her real identity as a replicant. Through Tyrell's inputting the format of memory of childhood, Rachael has her pseudo personal history. Later in Deckard's interpellation, both of them find out her identification as a replicant. Deckard then points out the truth that Dr. Tyrell uses the same method to implant memory into other replicants. In this way, Rachael, in this visual experience, abolishes what she has seen and what she has known of herself. What comes next is that she has to make effort to build up her cyborg identity. I think that Rachael's epistemological process is similar to Deckard's. Although Rachael is a replicant but she is brought up just like other human beings. They both watch the photos as past personal history that can assure the present self and continue personal history. In addition to the interrelation of self identity and ocular spectacles, Ridley challenges the authenticity of ocular proofs by means of high-tech devices. For instance, the photos can be produced to make another history. How much can postmodern self believe what they see?
In terms of Egoyan's Calendar, the photographer keeps watching the videos about his wife during their stay in Armenia after their divorce. Besides, his work, the calendar, also visualizes his past in Armenia. In these two ocular images, the video and the calendar, the photographer starts to contact with his root, the land of Armenia. The ironic part of the photographer's work is that he shoots the pictures of Armenian churches which are the sacred places of Armenian culture and history for the sake of capitalistic benefit. Seeing the land of Armenia is the photographer's initiation of building his Armenian identity. But it is an
obstacle for him that his verbal power cannot correspond with his visual images. He cannot speak Armenia so he has to rely on his wife and the local guide. This incoherence becomes
a dilemma for his present self. Furthermore, the video he shot in Armenia uncovers some hints of the photographer's wife and the guide falling in love with each other. In this way, watching the videos in Armenia is the collapse of his marriage, part of his past personal history. And looking the photos of Armenia is the photographer's link to mother land, the public history. In think in the last part of the film, the photographer's communicating with his ex-wife and his adoption of an Armenian orphan are his attempts to reconstruct his new present self, personal / private history-Armenian Canadian identity.
To sum up, Blade Runner and Calendar convey the spectatorship in postmodern culture and postmodern self. Postmodern vision contains various ways, such as photos, videos, images on TV or in internet. The multiplicity of seeing brings out the potential threat to the traditional seeing. In both films, it reveals seeing as a way of epistemology but also a way of self termination and reconstruction. Ways of seeing record images for memory which constructs self awareness, connects an individual to public history and contributes to personal history.