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The religious component in Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott has declared himself to the media many times as an atheist, atheist with doubts, agnostic with doubts, ... He can even change his religion ′if it is covered by the budget′, he says, with his typically English sense of humor. Less than two years ago he declared to the BBC that ′if you look at all the things that have happened during the last millions and billions of years, all the accidents and biological coincidences that have had to occur, to a certain extent all of that stops making sense if there is no one or something that has been acting as a mediator or a decision maker. Are we a great experiment in a small fraction of the passage of the Universe? Who is behind it? Will that entity that is in control end up saying something like: ′Okay, the experiment doesn′t work, we′re going to end it′? ′

Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona on Wednesday, December 22nd 2021 ·.·★ Reading takes 17 minutes or 3369 words.


Ridley Scott has been nominated for countless Oscars but his greatest credit is really outside the academy. For those of us who are not so academic, Ridley Scott is the famous director of two of the five science fiction films best voted by the audience on networks such as Filmaffinity. 2019 is a very special year for him. He has been working since six in the morning, always going, coming and talking on the phone with an employee from his own offices in Amsterdam, London, Hong Kong, New York or, of course, Los Angeles. He still have not solved the keys to ′Blade Runner 2049′ and he is already preparing a series where robots forbid religious beliefs to children entitled ′Raised by Wolves′.

Doubting is easy enough and sowing doubt does not necessarily require proof. Sowing doubt also allows you to obtain results in the very short term. It was with such a doubt that, according to the Genesis account, creation collapsed under the effect of sin. We′ve seen recently how you can question that the earth is round and easily get hit with a documentary on Netflix! Doubting is easy also because there is nothing in skepticism that is strange to us human beings.

Some of the ignorance around the person and the thinking of Ridley Scott is intentional and comes from himself - after all, he has been thinking about the concept of doubt for almost eighty years. Another part of the ignorance, however, comes when we prefer not to have to delve into the different sources of information. That is why we are going to try to put the context here, before reaching any conclusion, if possible, so that if we finally have any doubts, at least it is not due to our negligence.

The Education of Ridley Scott

Frank, Ridley Scott′s father, was already Newcastle′s prosperous partner in a maritime business the day the Prime Minister himself came to ask for his help. Winston Churchill, lacking military resources with which to fight the Nazis, then recruited even the smallest private boats and that is why Frank even participated in the popular rescue of soldiers in Normandy. The Nazis meanwhile unloaded up to 155,000 kilos of explosives on Newcastle alone between 1940 and 1941. Elizabeth, Ridley′s mother, who will later name the self-sufficient ship ′Alien′, was then an iron lady, hiding her children and singing songs to them during the bombings.

According to statistics, one in ten children died in those bombings, so the threat that Ridley Scott faced during the first two and three years of his life was real and is perfectly proven. The Scott family stayed together, according to Ridley, while his mother ′practiced law,′ and they all accompanied his father through the continuous changes of residence. The changes certainly forced him to enroll in up to ten different schools, which inevitably developed in him a certain familiarity with school failure and loneliness - an outstanding loneliness that we can later see in movies like ′The Martian′ or ′Blade Runner.′ .

Ridley Scott′s parents continually encouraged him to socialize at church first, dance at the disco as he got older, and eventually even join the thriving movie theater business run by his Uncle Dixon. Ridley Scott, however, had already decided what he wanted to do since he was very young and was not going to give his arm to twist. ′My family always said we were religious but we never went to church,′ said Ridley Scott recently. ′Then they forced me to go and there I was dying of boredom, until finally I was able to leave it as a teenager. Going to church made me feel guilty to the core and in fact I still feel that way, even though I don′t even know what I′m guilty of. ′

Ridley Scott′s first hobbies

When his entire family gathered to watch television, Ridley Scott would lock himself in another room to continue making drawings, illustrations or vignettes for comics, according to the testimony of his little brother Tony about him. His marked tendency to the extreme demand of details, already then led him to systematically destroy all those drawings. He counted the days until he could do business with his father, but instead Frank enrolled him in the prestigious art school in the capital called the Royal College of Art. ′nce I was useless, they sent me to art school - he says. Ridley Scott decides there to dedicate himself entirely to the world of advertising.

It seemed necessary for Ridley Scott to be away from his parents, for him to begin to show interest in cinema. He reviewed, for example, the film ′Citizen Kane by Orson Welles, one of his mother′s favorites, to which he applied a purely aesthetic analysis. He would then go to see the movies alone, naturally, and paying special attention to the credits. He was actually reading credits when he discovered a position that might fit his demands: the position of Art Director! He was also struck by directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman.

When Ridley Scott saw the movie ′The Seventh Seal,′ for example, he automatically envisioned himself making a movie about the crusades. He ended up recording ′The Kingdom of Heaven′ (2005) much later, but those days, when he left the cinema, he returned to his own world of illustration, design and advertising - which he had already begun to develop professionally as an employee of the BBC . His father also supported him by acting in the filming of his first short film in 1962. Finally, the success of his first feature film at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival proved to Ridley Scott how much he was wrong.

Ridley Scott discovers his interest in science fiction

Science fiction cinema, however, did not really arouse interest in him until he was in Los Angeles when he saw the first installment of ′Star Wars: A New Hope.′ He actually went to the cinema to see the movie three days in a row and finally came to understand the potential that lay in his way. 20th Century Fox, two years later, couldn′t wait any longer to make the fortune that ′Star Wars had generated and hired Ridley Scott to direct a Dan O-Bannon story titled ′Alien.

To achieve the goal of 20th Century Fox, Ridley Scott naturally surrounded himself with illustrators and professionals whom he already knew from his interest in Heavy Metal magazine. This illustrated science fiction magazine was created in France in 1975 under the name Métal Hurlant, thanks to the initiative of innovative European cartoonists such as Jean Giraud alias Moebius. Moebius′s goal was to visualize the future, but his main source of inspiration, he himself recognized, was none other than that of the 19th century engravings by the Frenchman Gustave Doré.

Moebius, who had been hired by Ridley Scott, recommended the Swiss H.R. Giger, another of the collaborating artists in the Métal Hurlant magazine. H.R. Giger had published in 1977 a portfolio of his works entitled ′Necronomicon′ - a name that highlighted an already evident influence of H.P. Lovecraft. Sigourney Weaver assures that the director paid more attention to the costumes than to the actors. Perhaps that is precisely why ′Alien′ automatically became so much more than a movie. Today it is a true cult franchise and deserves a separate article.

The context of the Blade Runner recording

The kind of recognition that movies like ′Alien′ bring helps Ridley Scott to maintain a very high concept of himself: ′I always find a way′ - he continually assures - ′even if you have to go against the nature′. The determination, demand, and hard work that he claims to have learned from his parents, however, sometimes has an unexpected effect on his biography. That discovery of finiteness, fragility and disappointment got in the way of his perfectly planned way of life, especially when his older brother Frank Scott died of cancer while working on the other side of the planet.

Ridley Scott sank emotionally at this time, losing himself in his thoughts about life, death and all those moments lived in the distance that will be lost, ′like tears in the rain.′ The movie Blade Runner naturally absorbed Ridley Scott′s darkest emotions. Perhaps that is why the first versions of Blade Runner in the eighties, not only constitute one of the five best science fiction films, according to Fernando Savater it is ′one of the greatest metaphysical efforts in cinema.′

Ridley Scott highlights how little interest he is in the details of the original story when he asks for a summary. A summary to avoid having to read the 200 or so pages of Philip K. Dick′s book! The writer-director relationship didn′t start or end well, of course, and the film focuses on just one or two of the book′s themes. During filming, Ridley Scott uses Edward Hopper′s painting ′Nighthawks.′ The movie poster will give the viewer a first clue: ′The man has taken sides ... now it is his problem.′

Early versions of Blade Runner

As Cain he must have entered the terrible city of the men of the Book of Genesis, fleeing without success to avoid being recognized by his past; so Harrison Ford aka Rick Deckard enters the opening scene of Blade Runner. Like a night hawk, Deckard begins hovering over Los Angeles airspace, forty years in the future, dodging thunderstorms, acid rain, and huge flares fired from below. The noise of the explosions threateningly interrupts the sad music of Vangelis.

Deckard flies over that endless city always in darkness, presided over by a ziggurat or pyramid owned by the Tyrell Corporation. The strange inhabitants of the city do not show too many affective traits and circulate like automatons, illuminated only by the dim glow of the omnipresent neon signs or the reflection they leave on the always wet streets. As the devil came from traveling the world in the Book of Job; thus also arrived from outer space, a group of slave robots called replicants, now decidedly outlawed.

Gaff, the chief police officer in charge of removing the robots, also appears dressed in a raincoat in the purest style of film noir, in the image and likeness of the same Humphrey Bogart who had occupied those same studios forty years earlier. His strict sense of logic leads him to assure that death is something natural. For their part, the robots, however, like Ridley Scott himself, only think about one thing: how to obtain eternal life from the hands of their creator? We will therefore dedicate much more time to this film in another article on ′Blade Runner.

Love and the prophets of science fiction

The next stop in his relationship with science fiction is ′Prophets of Science Fiction′, the documentary series directed by Ridley Scott in 2011 for Science Channel, where he insists again on his most basic interests still today and that of course they go beyond works of fiction. The very title of the series points to his interest in human and religious issues that are further from empathizing with the more traditional sectors of science. Ridley Scott is shown in the chapters continually drawing and as a debtor, for example, to Philip K. Dick, who died without being able to enjoy the renown that his book would eventually gain -in spite of everything- thanks to ′Blade Runner .

The question that interests Ridley Scott the most is not whether God exists, which is where most conversations about religion now get bogged down. The question that really interests the director, still thirty years later, when he records ′Prometheus,′ is whether God can save us. ′But save us from what?′ Asks the believing protagonist of ′Prometheus.′ ′Saving us from death of course′ - says an aging Guy Pearce confident of himself. The theologian José de Segovia has already written an excellent article on ′Prometheus in this same magazine.

The film ′Prometheus′, directed by Ridley Scott in 2012, ends in a sense where the novel ′The War of the Worlds′ by British H.G. Wells and shares with her the main idea that we have reason to think the worst: that God may want our most complete destruction. Ridley Scott′s traces of extraterrestrial divinities, hidden deep within the Earth for thousands of years, are tremendously similar to those of H.G. Wells in 1898. The shape of their bodies for the 2012 Ridley Scott version is also almost identical to the 2005 Steven Spielberg version. Ridley Scott was reaping the awards for this very interesting film when he received another terrible news : Tony Ridley, his little brother and partner, had taken his own life, hanging from one of the bridges he most commonly used to record in Los Angeles.

Looking for a solution to death

Some sources of information from ancient times speak of Prometheus as the Titan who created man out of clay - for example in Apollod. There is no doubt that among the entire pantheon of Greek deities, Prometheus appears repeatedly as the one who was most benefactor to men. We have hardly advanced in our knowledge of the big questions that interest Ridley Scott since Mary Shelley wrote about Dr. Frankenstein - our modern Prometheus. Science therefore very often requires a great deal of enthusiasm and the search for evidence that does not always confirm our first hypotheses. Miguel de Unamuno′s characters, like Augusto Pérez in his novel ′Niebla, were already facing his creators at the beginning of the 20th century. There is nothing new in this narrative device and it cannot surprise us, since God himself appears often in the Bible asking his people to bring their complaints to him.

′Why is it so difficult for us to accept the faith in which we have been raised?′ -Ridley Scott wonders, after the recording of his film ′The Kingdom of Heaven′ (2005). Unlike doubt, which arises naturally, faith is a miracle. Faith is impossible from the most properly human point of view. Unlike the more purely intellectual knowledge, which can be acquired through the acquisition and interpretation of the data to which we have access, faith is based on a personal relationship. The Bible itself assures that even the demons themselves believe in God, but that this knowledge does not serve them to receive salvation from him. Salvation, including salvation from death that Ridley Scott would do well to worry about, occurs through a personal relationship based on love.

The relationship that Jesus stars according to the Holy Scriptures is proactive. It is the relation of an intruder who interrupts in history in general and, furthermore, in our plans of people in particular; It is therefore not the relationship of someone who leaves a message to be contacted at some end of the Universe. Salvation in the Bible is not, so to speak, an Easter egg. The apostle John, in the third chapter of his record of the life of Jesus, synthesizes it like this: ′For God so loved the world′ - writes the one who was later known as the apostle of love - ′that he gave his son only begotten, so that everyone who believes in him may not lose himself but have eternal life . Jesus therefore inaugurates a reality that is already accessible thanks to an extreme sacrifice, which must ultimately be believed, yes, but also lived in relationship with the creator! A relationship that enables us to improve our relationship with the rest of creation but that, we cannot forget, begins with the restoration of our relationship with him.


This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as El componente religioso en las películas de Ridley Scott


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