Better Than the Real Thing? Love in Blade Runner 2049

‘…On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth…’

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera.

The protagonist, a blade runner named K, is in love with his AI. She’s essentially a hologram, and in a pivotal scene, she organises a ‘pleasure model’ to come to his apartment so she can merge herself with it in order to make love to him.

While watching, I found myself subsumed by a wave of emotion. I didn’t know why, or what it meant; it was just the collision of one agonizing impulse after the other. The scene is, however, possibly the most potent comment on the relationship between loneliness and pornography I have seen.

It was a teeming intersection of ideas; the way men use porn to chase a phantom of love, kindness and acceptance that exists nowhere other than like an undulating flame in one’s own mind. There is also the fact that for K, the desire to be loved and to be held is so intense, his mind will arc across the things which interfere with that reality, like the mild dyssynchronicity between the hologram and the body that supports it. 

What is most remarkable about the scene is the fact that when watching, I did believe it. I felt that he got the love and support and kindness he needed. This is speculative, in the spirit of true science fiction, but perhaps K’s emotional response to this experience is ‘reality’.

I wonder if this idea isn’t confirmed later, in the ruined casino in radioactive Las Vegas where the original film’s protagonist, Rick Deckard, has gone to hide and subsist. Stanley Kubrick’s hotel from The Shining is written all over it, but rather than being malign, these ghosts are filled with melancholy and pathos.

During a fight scene between K and Deckard in the casino’s ballroom, a holographic performance of Elvis, circa 1970, flickers, appears and disappears. Our sense of the uncanny is proof of the fact that as intelligent beings, we know the hologram of Elvis isn’t real. But the resonance we feel, the sense of wonder mingling with our sense of the uncanny, is proof that something is ‘real’, even if its’ only register is our emotional response.

There is a ghost within us that resonates against the ghost without.  

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