A Post-Impressionist Look at Popular Sci-Fi Films

popular sci fi films

In our ever-advancing modern age, art takes on new life. Sometimes, the forms of that art were previously impossible. Like the combination of historic paintings and popular sci-fi films.

Combining historic art forms with modern methods isn’t unpopular. Quite the opposite.

The 2017 film Loving Vincent uses the visual aspects of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings to craft a wonderfully vibrant story.

But what about re-imagining live-action films in the styles of long-dead painters? Does the combination of modern film and 100-year-old paintings give the film a new meaning?

Let’s explore Post-Impressionism and modern sci-fi films in their weird, yet accurate marriage.

Understanding Realism, Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism

To truly understand the Post-Impressionism movement, we first have to take a glimpse at what came before it.

Impressionism started in France in the late 1800s, and broke away from the previous line of artists, the Realists. While the Realists, as one can ascertain, were focused on creating the most realistic, lifelike art physically possible, Impressionists emphasized painting as an art form, not just a mode for creating hyper-accurate renderings of real life.

Impressionism was all about the paint, the environment, the effect of light on the subject. Instead of trying to capture the subject exactly—which were often scenes of nature or landscapes—they took the liberty of experimenting with the scale, depth, and texture of their paintings.

Artists that dominated this era included:

  • Claude Monet
  • Camille Pissaro
  • August Renoir
  • Mary Cassatt

What is Post-Impressionism?

So, Post-Impressionist art turns the values of Impressionism on their heads. The Impressionists placed a lot of importance on how light is portrayed in scenic, often pastoral, paintings.

Well, that didn’t jive with the Post-Impressionists, and neither did the intense focus on color. The Post-Impressionist largely placed an “emphasis on more symbolic content, formal order and structure…believing color could be independent from form and composition as an emotional and aesthetic bearer of meaning.

Post-Impressionist art is marked by the idea that the meaning of the piece is more important than the piece itself. Art is created for a plethora of reasons, and evokes a plethora of feelings, which take precedence in Post-Impressionism.

Well-known artists from the era included:

  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Henry Rousseau

A Tasteful Pairing: Post-Impressionism and Popular Sci-Fi Films

When you think about popular science fiction films, like Blade Runner, for instance, does your mind jump to famous Post-Impressionist works of art?

Probably not. But for Bhautik Joshi, it was.

A few years ago, Joshi, who is an avid photographer and artist, reproduced scenes from the 1982 Blade Runner film in the style of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Plus, keeping with the theme of sci-fi classics, he reproduced parts of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the style of Pablo Picasso. While Picasso was often referred to as a Cubist, Cubism was a sub-section of Post-Impressionism.

Starry Night/Blade Runner

2001: A Space Odyssey/Picasso Cubism

Sci-Fi Films and Post-Impressionism Characteristics

What struck me about Joshi’s decision to pair classic sci-fi films with post-impressionist art was, well, that pairing.

On the surface, such a combination might seem innocuous. It even looks good! The delicate swirls and deep color of Starry Night matches almost seamlessly with Blade Runner’s already-compelling aesthetic.

However, if we think about post-impressionism’s meaning – the aestheticism of color, the symbolism of the content, a focus on structure and order—pairing it with popular sci-fi films was a genius move.

Blade Runner is a cyberpunk classic, often noted as one of the first cyberpunk films. The cyberpunk genre is known for portraying societies in various stages of social, economic, and technological collapse. It’s grungy, dark, and unforgivingly violent.

Post-Impressionism was a breakdown of Impressionist beliefs—a movement that placed more value on the meaning and symbolism of art than the piece of art itself.

Cyberpunk as a genre—specifically Blade Runner—can be seen as largely symbolic. The use of neon colors contrasted with dark, rainy alleyways portrays the artificiality of modern societies. Nature in cyberpunk worlds borders on nonexistent, replaced instead with the ‘formal order’ of vast cityscapes and power grids.

Blade Runner evokes both feelings of awe and despair. Awe at a world with flying cars, advanced technology, and an extreme melting pot of ideas, people, and lifestyles. But also despair at the inevitable breakdown of societal righteousness, the disregard for human, animal, or plant life, and the commonplace corruption of technological icons.

Joshi’s take on the popular 1982 film, while only a few seconds, puts into broad prospective the connection between artistic themes. Post-Impressionism and the cyberpunk genre fit together hauntingly well.

Opening a World of Possibilities

Joshi accomplished his snippets with deep neural networks, feeding them pieces of art to pair with popular sci-fi films. That was in 2016.

Now, artificial intelligence is so advanced it can create realistic human likenesses by combining characteristics from thousands of photographs of real people. These non-people are called deep fakes, and to any casual observer, they are near indistinguishable from actual photographs or videos of real people.

AI and neural networks are great tools for creating art. We can create entirely new actors, giving them a face and a voice and viewers might not even know the difference.

If we wanted to, we could make a film with every character played by Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson. Not a great idea, but it’s a possibility.

But at what stage does the use of AI for art cease to be an artistic endeavor? When does it become a crux for creation, a necessity rather than a convenience?

Years before Joshi released his Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey projects another artist was experimenting with classic art forms and modern film.

Anders Ramsell released Blade Runner – The Aquarelle Edition in 2013. He hand-painted over 12,000 watercolor paintings and combined them into a 35-minute rendition of the Blade Runner film. His labor of love took 2 years to create.

Ramsell’s project shows us that amazing art is possible without the help of artificial intelligence. He had full control over every painting and every scene because he made them with his own two hands.

Anyways, I’ve rambled on for long enough. Hope you found this interesting!

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