“Hey, have you seen this movie? What did you think about THAT SCENE?!” We have all used that phrase at one point during our discussions of movies with the other person’s eyebrows raising, “Oh yea, THAT SCENE!” You go on to pick that memorable scene apart by listing what you loved or didn’t like, how it made you feel and the impression it left on you.
In this series, we will do just that. We will take a scene from a movie and discuss its impact on us. Some of these scenes may be frightening, weird, iconic, controversial, hilarious and everything in between. Let us know your impression of the scene and the impact it left on you the first time you watched it down below in the comments. Enjoy!
*Warning: May Contain Spoilers*
Blade Runner (1982)
Scene: Tears in Rain
As we continue our look at Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner, we decided to discuss its most iconic scene. For more background on the film, you can read Dhalgren’s Blade Runner is Now editorial and Alvarez’s review of the film because we are going to focus on this key shot with one of the best monologues in the history of cinema.
For the majority of the film, we have watched as burnt-out cop Deckard chasing a group of fugitive replicants who have been running amok. In particular, the main replicant Roy Batty, played by the late Rutger Hauer in his career-defining role, is on a mission to extend his life and not just be a good little worker bee anymore. As the viewer, we are told this is the bad guy as he is chased by the law and we witness him murder with his bare hands. Why is he doing all of this? He simply wants more life. Replicants are only designed to have a four-year life span. Perhaps, more than anyone else, this synthetic human understands the fleeting nature of life and that brings us to our scene.
All the other replicants have been retired and as Roy’s body begins to shut down, he is on the hunt for Deckard. The genetically enhanced Roy toys with Deckard as he makes him pay for the pain he has caused. As Deckard runs away, he tries to leap from one building to another but isn’t able to fully make the jump and is barely hanging on for his life. Roy easily makes the jump. “Quite the experience to live in fear?” Roy asks Deckard as he watches him struggle to hold on. “That’s what it is to be a slave.” Deckard slips and at the last second Roy reaches out to grab him. Is he just toying with him some more or is he saving him?
Roy lifts him up with one hand and tosses him safely onto the roof. Deckard stunned as we are watches as Roy delivers a masterful monologue. The emotional weight of the entire film is brought down to this piece of dialogue.
“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 Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
The entire mood of the film has an atmosphere of oppression. The constant hustle and bustle, the eternal downpour, and of course, the need for technology have all made the humans feel like the actual machines. In this simple bit of dialogue, Batty recognizes his own humanity and mortality which, honestly, slapped me in the face. This “non-human” is the one who actually shows empathy. All he was fighting for was for those programmed memories and wanting to live a little longer before they were washed away “like tears in rain.”
With the constant downpour of rain, Rutger Hauer delivers one hell of a performance here. Hauer significantly altered the original script and adding in, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain”. A critic was quoted as saying that this speech was, “perhaps the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history”. I tend to agree.
One of the things that Blade Runner is often credited for is how real Ridley Scott’s dystopian Los Angeles feels. Thanks to late set designer Lawrence G. Paull, concept artist Syd Mead, and effects artist Douglass Trumbull, it’s not like Blade Runner needed a lot of help in the world building area. But it’s not just the film’s visuals that have kept audiences intrigued and asking questions all these years later. If Blade Runner’s visual language is as much about the dark spaces between the bright splashes of neon that we can’t see, Rutger Hauer’s soliloquy at the end of the film is as much about what’s not said as what is.
Cyberpunk godfather William Gibson once said of an early scene from John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape From New York,
“I was intrigued by the exchange in one of the opening scenes where the Warden says to Snake ‘You flew the Gullfire over Leningrad, didn’t you?’ It turns out to be just a throwaway line, but for a moment it worked like the best SF where a casual reference can imply a lot.“
The ”Tears in Rain” soliloquy is mostly remembered for summing up the thesis of the film. Hauer’s Roy Batty is telling the audience what his struggle for the entirety of the film has been about. Without the freedom to live and love on his own terms, Batty, and his fellow replicants, might as well have never lived at all.
Batty’s final words are important because they gently remind the audience to consider the questions the film is asking. But they do more than that.
What are attack ships, C-beams, and the Tannhäuser Gate? What do they look like? What purpose do they serve?
These questions aren’t terribly important when weighed against the soliloquy’s main purpose, but these seemingly throw away references, spoken amid the lush, brooding rooftop set, continue to flesh out the world of Blade Runner even at the end of the film. And I would argue, they’re part of why we are still talking about this nearly 40 year old film and wondering what the dark spaces in between the neon hold, what they look like, and who (or what) lives among them.
Let me know what you think of this scene down in the comments! What do you think the monologue meant?