Sunday, 15 February 2015

Do Screenwriters Dream of Electric Sheep ?

When it comes to reading fiction, I try to keep the rule – if I've seen the film, I’ll skip the book, but there can be value in breaking this rule: at the moment I’m reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ? and it’s illuminated an exchange of dialogue from Blade Runner which has always puzzled me somewhat.

Deckard: "It's your birthday. Someone gives you a calfskin wallet. How do you react ?"...
Rachel: "I wouldn't accept it. Also I'd report the person who gave it to me to the police."

Rachel’s response in the film seems extreme and draconian, but it has more resonance in Dick’s book, where Earth’s animal species are virtually depleted, and what animals are left are coveted, cherished and change hands for large sums of money. This theme of the book had fallen by the wayside by the time Blade Runner’s screenplay was locked down and makes the Voight-Kampff test question about the calfskin wallet feel just a little too idiosyncratic for its own good. Similarly, Leon's line in the film: "I've never seen a turtle. But I understand what you mean" makes him sound a little infantile. But in the context of the book, his admission is perfectly understandable. The perils of adaptation !

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