The Great Batty? A Daisy Chain Connects Blade Runner And Luhrmann’s Gatsby

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Ah, twitter. It’s great when you throw an idea out there and some kindred soul flies with it. The other day I tweeted, “Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and Blade Runner – crazy companion pieces?” Well, Paul Bullock saw the connection, and together we volleyed back and forth a few ideas on links between the films, specifically, the ideas of perception and memory.

Validation also comes in the form Scott Bukatman’s BFI Classics book on  Blade Runner. He quotes Fitzgerald’s text in his introduction; “I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye.”

Eyes, machines, men and women. Isn’t that what The Great Gatsby and  Blade Runner both revolve around? The New York of Luhrmann’s film, with its live now, die young hurrying hordes, brightly lit, thrusting skyward buildings, built on the backs of workers living in the outlying slums Gatsby and Buchanan race through, is just like Ridley Scott’s dystopian LA. The extreme close up of an eye and constant references to vision and perception in Blade Runner are also echoed in The Great Gatsby – see the giant Occular advertising hoarding (“The eyes of God!”) and everyone’s perception of one another ( “I’m certainly glad to see you.”). 

Roy Batty is a Nexus  6, “More human than human”. Gatsby is no less a construct, “Old Sport”, moulding a life that he perceives to be the perfect existence for himself and Daisy. We see Gatsby’s life, and that of the impossibly rich West Egg set in a heightened whirl, the camera swooping and gliding over, up and around impossibly vivid colours and bacchanalian parties, at first through the eyes of Tom Carroway. Like Deckard, an unreliable narrator. Bukatman quotes neurologist Oliver Sacks:

“When we open our eyes each morning, it is upon a world we have spent a lifetime learning to see. We are not given the world: we make our world through incessant experience, categorisation, memory, reconnection. It is not a world that one perceives or constructs, but one’s own world [that is] linked to a perpetual self, with a will, an orientation, and a style of its own.” 

Replicants and forged memories – like Deckard, Gatsby falls in love with a construct; for five years he has created an impossible dream in his scrapbook of a love built upon a memory (much like Rachel’s photograph). He cannot brook the thought that Daisy once loved her husband, not knowing she burnt his letter declaring his previous penniless state. She is not as special as he perceives her to be.

Gatsby and Batty both want “More life, fucker.” Gatsby dismisses calls from his shady business partners (“Not now”), obstacles to his pursuit of Daisy, the only life he sees ahead. Batty challenges Tyrell and Sebastian to stave off “retirement.

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Gatsby is even an “Off-world combat model”. War torn Europe may as well have been another world to distant America. Batty’s iconic death speech could, at a stretch, apply to Gatsby too:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack tanks on fire off the Hindenburg Line. The Green Light glittering near the Buchanan’s Shore. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…”

And the clincher? Gatsby is “retired”, ending his own five year cycle…

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Originally posted 2013-05-25 16:43:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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