Occupation: Director, producer
Born: November 30th, 1937
Nationality: British (UK)
Works: Blade Runner, Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, Robin Hood, Prometheus
“Are you not entertained!” shouts Russell Crowe as Maximus in the 2000 Academy Award winning historical epic Gladiator. This question may be frequently asked by its director Ridley Scott, as his direction strives for perfection with each film. Ridley and his brother Tony Scott are two of the most influential directors in modern cinema. Though it can be argued their recent work may not match their earlier groundbreaking achievements, they are sought-after genre directors who have created and augmented a fascinating array of unique trademarks. When people question the relevance of auteur theory, there is no doubt either one of them will come to mind.
Scott and Damon Lindelof, co-creator/writer of Lost, have recently sparked many heated online debates about the ambiguity of their sci-fi blockbuster Prometheus. What some may consider plot holes, others see as a smart use of sci-fi elements; creating bold, philosophical questions without answers. Scott has used ambiguity in many of his films, developing a true sense of mystery. Many of his films use ambiguity to question the viewer’s involvement in the film viewing process. The ending of Blade Runner for example is one of the most discussed scenes in cinema history. Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard as far as we know may or may not be simply a tough persona used to shield himself from emotional torment. Scott creates these debates not to frustrate, but to create though provoking discussion. Ambiguity is not only a defining trait of his now acclaimed work but has led to some of the most influential films in pop culture. It has separated Scott’s films from mind numbing modern sci-fi desperate to answer every question with nonsensical answers for a target demographic.
With a number of Scott’s films critically derided upon release but considered groundbreaking decades later, will the same happen to his recent thought provoking, ambitious, violent, enigmatic and ambiguous sci-fi horror flick? History suggests that only time will tell. In the 30 year gap between Scott’s sci-fi adventures, he has approached different genres eagerly. Genre defining works of art and popcorn chomping blockbusters such as Thelma and Louise, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven and American Gangster have shown Scott’s directorial elements used outside his phenomenal realm of dark, disturbing sci-fi with Alien and Blade Runner. Film Noir and westerns are clearly important to Scott. With Matchstick Men boasting an energetic Nicholas Cage performance, a femme fatale, a bag of money an troubled criminal minds behind every operation; these noir elements prove the existence of film/neo-noir as relevant to modern film-making.
Trademark: Female action heroes, recurring cast members, set-piece storyboards, epic scope
Scott loves a true message illustrating the merit behind his entertaining and subtle storytelling. His love for powerful yet sensitive female characters proves to be an alluring convention. His characters are important for the image of feminism in cinema, seeing them as regular people willing to break out of their chains and achieve their own sense of freedom. Continuing this idea in Prometheus with Noomi Rapace’s character Elizabeth Shaw as the leader of the ill fated expedition, his presumed attraction to Rapace’s ass-kicking and gothic computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, now defines Rapace as the heroin of modern cinema. Thelma and Louise, Ripley, and G. I. Jane are also part of Scott’s penchant for femininity. Thelma and Louise’s race to the end is another example of ambiguity in Scott’s filmography. Following the classic western convention of the ‘race to the border’, the ending of Thelma and Louise suggests an escape from men controlling the two main characters throughout a mediocre existence.
With Prometheus‘ ambiguous questions, based on important themes of philosophy, sexual reproduction, birth and death, and creationism, being handled with such depth, Scott’s film-making techniques and symbols have once again proven to be a major talking point. Scott’s smart, sensitive and ambiguous storytelling, despite mixed responses, has always inspired thought-provoking discussion about not only our connection to his characters, but his level of determination in consistently creating bold, violent and creative cinema.