Blade Runner: The use of eyes as symbolism

13 March 2023
blade runner eyes

The use of eye symbolism in the 1982 film Blade Runner is significant and recurring, providing insight into the themes and characters within the movie. The opening scene of the film, with an extreme closeup of an eye that fills the screen reflecting the industrial landscape seen below, immediately sets the tone for the importance of sight and the eye's significance in the story.

The character of Roy seeks out Chew, a genetic designer of eyes who created the eyes of the Nexus-6. Roy's ironic quip to Chew, "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes," emphasizes the importance of personal experience in the formation of self. The fact that the man who designed replicant eyes shows the replicants the way to Tyrell is symbolic and highlights the role of eyes as a window to the soul.

The Voight-Kampff test used in the film to determine if someone is human measures emotions, specifically empathy, through various biological responses such as fluctuation of the pupil and involuntary dilation of the iris. Tyrell's trifocal glasses are a reflection of his reliance on technology for his power and his myopic vision.

The glow in the pupils of replicants' eyes creates a sense of artificiality and is evidence that Deckard may be a replicant himself. The effect was produced by shining a light along the optical axis of the camera. According to Ridley Scott, the eye is the most important organ in the human body, and a glowing human retina is one way of stating that. The glow is a stylistic device visible only to the viewers to help them understand that they are viewing a replicant.

The relationship between sight and memories is also referenced several times in the film. Rachael's visual recollection of her memories, Leon's "precious photos," Roy's discussion with Chew, and his soliloquy at the end, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe," all emphasize the importance of sight and memory. However, the film also highlights the concept that what the eyes see and the resulting memories are not always to be trusted, as evidenced by Rachael's fabricated memories and Deckard's need to confirm a replicant based on more than appearance.

Overall, the use of eye symbolism in Blade Runner is a powerful tool that reinforces the themes and characters of the film, highlighting the importance of sight and memory while also emphasizing the potential for deception and mistrust.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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