In the current issue of the venerable if eccentric London Review of Books, the usually dependable Michael Wood presents a mysterious review of the recent film, Blade Runner 2049.
Wood does not seem to like the film but doesn’t seem to hate it settling instead in a foggy middle-ground between appreciating the effort and despairing of the effort having any staying power.
But what seems curious is what he doesn’t mention. He does take a moment to describe the film’s use of Nabokov’s Pale Fire as a point of reference and meta-commentary on the film’s attempt to discuss the nature of identity and originality. Pale Fire may or may not be a genuine attempt to write a book about a man who wrote a book (or epic poem) or it may be a genuine attempt to write a book about a sincere fraud who created a (genuine) fake. Or perhaps it’s a type of literary butterfly with a pin through its body.
Wood doesn’t really say and one assumes that as he’s writing for the type of people who read the London Review of Books there’s not only no need for exegesis but also, that any sort of explanation would be considered gauche. As Louis Armstrong put it in a different context: if you gotta ask, you’ll never understand.
Which brings us to what he doesn’t mention at all. Ryan Gosling’s replicant has a name which is reduced to a single letter – K.
But not a word from Wood on how that might very well be a nod to another character stumbling through a vast bureaucratic labyrinth full of shadows and fog where meaning is dubious and situational and as a result identities are a matter of context rather than being fixed and permanent.
But there’s nothing said. Not a word. A filmmaker – Denis Villeneuve – goes to the effort to slide Nabokov into the mix but, we are to assume names his star K. but has no castle on the hill in the foggy distance in mind. Or, we are to assume there is significance but it’s beneath Wood’s paygrade to mention it. Wood does mention that he had forgotten that in the first film Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty says, just before expiring, that it’s difficult to meet one’s maker. And we mention this because of course who but the maker is K. in search of the truth, or himself, or both, as he tries to navigate the trials of his fate.
Or perhaps we are meant to wait for word from the Review giving us grace to wander in the territory of the kingdom except maybe the phone doesn’t work and even if it does no one answers or if they do they never exactly say yes and they never exactly say no.
See the review here: