Friday, August 12, 2011

Three Movies That Changed My Life (Part 1)

Three Movies That Changed My Life

I know it sounds like a bold claim - the kind of claim somebody only makes about something they're trying to sell and they know you don't want. But in the case of the three movies that we will discuss over the next few days, it's all true. You see, I watched them as a teenager, and frankly they changed the way that I saw the world and well, I still love them. What I want to do is discuss them, talk about what made them so wonderful, and maybe address what it was about the films that made such an impression on me.

3. Blade Runner
I was 15 years old, shopping in the "city" away from my small town where I grew up. While going through the video store I saw Blade Runner on VHS and bought it on a whim. (Seriously, what were they doing selling an R-rated movie to a 15 year old!?) $25 was a sick price to pay, and I have no idea why I bought it, but I did. All my friends were annoyed that there was a black bar at the top and bottom of the screen - they'd never seen a movie with that before. I tried telling them that we were seeing more of the film, but they didn't care - they wanted the picture to fill the screen.

What struck me most deeply about Blade Runner was the fantastically dirty and "used" feeling that Ridley Scott's future of 2019 had. For me, the film was all about atmosphere. I still love the shot of the futuristic chinatown with the flying cars, and I could watch the opening scene with the landscape of LA, the fire rising from the refineries, and the flaming eye over and over again. I was captivated by the idea that a robot could possibly be a person and for a short while I obsessed over finding a way to "know" beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not a robot. I had inadvertently picked the director's cut of the movie and so had no idea that there was ever a "happy ending" to this movie. When I finally saw the happy ending (with the atrocious voice-over delivered maliciously by an unenthusiastic Harrison Ford) I was so glad that I hadn't seen the theatrical version first. If I had, I'd probably never have fallen in love with the dank, wet, neon landscape of noire Los Angeles, 2019.

After seeing the film, I purchased the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and read it through (twice, I think). I played the PC game through at least three times. It barely ran on my Hewlett Packard 133MHz Pentium. I bought the soundtrack at a Premium and became infatuated with the electronic music of Vangelis. His music transported me to neon cityscapes of unimaginable beauty. Never mind that they weren't real - as I sat in my basement bedroom in my boring small town, I traveled to amazing places because of Vangelis.

A few years later I got a DVD player and along with it my first DVD copy of Blade Runner. Finally, when I made the move to HD, Blade Runner: The Final Cut was the first movie I purchased on Blu-Ray. All in all, it's hard to imagine what kind of a person I would be if I hadn't seen Blade Runner. I know it's an outrageous claim, but it is a fact that my imagination has been greatly stimulated and inspired by this film. On top of all that, and most importantly, it brought me the earliest sparks of philosophical self-reflection which eventually drove me to Christ. Until I pondered my own existence because of the existential questions that I struggled over after seeing this movie, I was a fairly shallow (though I remained consistently self-absorbed) young man. It helped make me the man I am today.

A few years ago I found out that Harrison Ford hated making this movie - that he was miserable during the whole shoot and that he would never work with Ridley Scott again after his experience. I found it so unbelievable that I still refuse to accept it as truth. Frankly, how could anyone be miserable, having been in the coolest, awesomest, deepest, most imaginative movie ever made!?

So that's the third most influential movie in my life. Tomorrow, we'll talk about number two.

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