Blade Runner celebrates its 40th anniversary today. Released in the summer of 1982, the film flopped at the box office and was not well received by critics. But over the decades, Blade Runner’s reputation has grown and is now considered a sci-fi classic. But the idea for the film came from a dark place when author Philip K. Dick was inspired by a Nazi diary.
Set in the (then) future of 2019, Blade Runner revolves around a former cop who makes a living by hunting down and retiring powerful androids – or replicants – that have been outlawed on Earth.
Directed by Ridley Scott, the film has two screenwriters in the form of Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, and the source material they worked with was a novel entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K Dick.
The book was published in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and Dick came up with the idea for the story while researching another book.
How did a Nazi diary affect Blade Runner?
While working on the 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle – which presents an alternate world in which Germany won World War II – Dick gained access to Gestapo documents held at the University of California.
There he discovered diaries of SS men stationed in Poland. And one entry triggered something.
Shortly before his death, Dick told Cinefantastique, “The phrase was, ‘We are kept awake at night by the screams of starving children.’ There was obviously something wrong with the man who wrote this. I later realized that what we were dealing with with the Nazis was essentially a defective group consciousness; a mind so emotionally defective that the word human could not be applied to it.”
From there, Dick viewed the fact that such groupthink was becoming universal. He continues: “Worse, I felt that this wasn’t necessarily an exclusively German trait. This shortage had been exported to the world after World War II and could be picked up by people anywhere and anytime.
“I wrote Do Androids during the Vietnam War. At the same time, I was revolutionary and existential enough to believe that these android personalities are so deadly, so dangerous to humans, that eventually it may become necessary to fight them. The problem with killing then would be, ‘Wouldn’t we become like the androids if we tried to wipe them out?’”
Androids/Replicants vs. Humans
Dick wanted the book to explore the emotional sterility of modern humanity and the impact the war in Vietnam had on combatants. As he tells Cinefantastique, “It was written at a time when I thought we’d become as bad as the enemy.”
This is where the film differs from the book. In Androids, the protagonist Deckard seems to lose his humanity, while in Blade Runner he gains it through his love for the replicant Rachel.
“This is one of my favorite novels,” he told the magazine. “Although it is essentially a dramatic novel, the moral and philosophical ambiguities it deals with are really quite profound. The book grew out of my fundamental interest in the problem of distinguishing the authentic human from the reflective machine I called an android. I think ‘Android’ is a metaphor for people who are physiologically human but behave in non-human ways.”
The distinction between man and machine becomes an even more prominent theme of the film and becomes even clearer with every subsequent cut. But the central concept remains the same and boils down to this one chilling phrase.
https://www.dexerto.com/tv-movies/how-a-nazi-diary-inspired-blade-runner-1855413/ How a Nazi diary inspired Blade Runner