Blade Runner, a film noir story told in a science fiction setting, is a unique take on the stylistic elements of film noir.
Firstly, disillusionment and nihilism are certainly present themes in Blade Runner. These themes come to light through the many formal techniques that are conventions of the film noir genre:
The film is most notably lit for night. The chiaroscuro lighting is always dark and there is not one shot in the movie that takes place in broad daylight. On top of that, the actors and setting get equal treatment when it comes to lighting. As opposed to films of other genres in which the main characters are usually well-lit no matter how well-lit the setting is, Blade Runner’s characters are lit according to their physical spot in the setting—they are not differentiated from the setting in any way.
Next, the film, in line with the conventions of its genre, is filled with water, in puddles, sinks, or pouring rain. The most pivotal action in the story typically takes place outdoors, during a dark, muggy, and exceptionally rainy hour of the night.
Although this specific version of Blade Runner does not contain it, the theatrical version contains romantic voiceover narration, another trope of film noir.
Lastly, the film’s cinematography and mise-en-scene is much influenced by German Expressionism. Each character’s makeup is for the most part elaborate (characterized by Pris’s raccoon eyes), displaying some kind of intense emotion. Emotion is also displayed by acting that is more presentational than naturalistic, displaying fierce emotional feelings. Harrison Ford’s grunts, heavy breathing, and exaggerated facial expressions of pain are exemplary of this.
All in all, there is no doubt that Blade Runner belongs to the genre of film noir. But what makes it even more interesting is that it is, too, an excellent example of genre mixing. Genre mixing and the many masterpieces created through it are proof that genres (which are criticized for being formulaic and unoriginal) can certainly create original works of art that ooze creativity.