In a line up of the greatest actors ever to have graced the silver screen it’s unlikely that 63 year-old Dutch actor Rutger Hauer would immediately spring to mind. Yet, Hauer will rightly be remembered for taking centre stage in a truly great cinematic scene.
The film in question is Ridley Scot’s cult-classic Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. Set in Los Angeles in 2019, the film follows Deckard (Ford), an ex-’Blade Runner’ brought out of retirement to hunt down sophisticated androids known as ‘replicants’.
Eventually, only one of these remains, a commando known as Roy Batty (Hauer). He stalks Deckard through an abandoned house before a final, climactic confrontation on the rainy rooftops of a grimy, dilapidated slum.
With his programmed life expectancy about to expire, Roy saves Deckard, catching him as he falls off a roof, before delivering his monologue; a speech so achingly brilliant that it can only fail to strike a chord with people who are dead inside.
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die.
As he speaks his dying words, you can see, with every nuanced contortion of his face, and hear, with every painful pause, his desperate attempts to grasp the meaning of his life, even as it slips away. The emotional intensity of this scene relies on many factors. The setting is perfect: the rain falls continually out of the darkened sky, a steady drumming of despair echoing across the rooftops. The score by Vangelis is deeply affecting, a penetrating, bittersweet melody that soars through the scene. Finally, Scott must be congratulated for visual simplicity, aware that this is a cinematic scene of emotional depth, not technical fireworks. The essence of the scene is captured with simple beauty; no cynicism, and no sly, satirical wink to the audience. There is, instead, a soulful integrity that is neither sentimental nor soppy, but entirely sincere. It is a classic piece of cinema.
In the aftermath of Roy’s death, there are precious seconds of reflection. Roy loved life, indeed he loved it enough to save the life of an enemy. He talks of the wondrous experiences in his short life, and he realises, in his final moments, that he will lose those memories forever; everything that has made him who he is will suddenly cease to exist.
Yet, Roy finds his humanity in the knowledge that life is transient, and in the comfort that, for every human, there will always be a time to die.