Tears In Rain

When Rutger Hauer died last week social media lit up for one brief moment with a thousand iterations of his tears in the rain speech from Blade Runner. It’s the best bit of the film (a film to which I am not partial), and it’s great despite the clunky scifi nonsense weighing it down.

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.

(It’s worth noting that Hauer himself wrote the “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,” which is what we’re going to be talking about here)

This monologue comes at the end of the movie, as Roy Batty has defeated Harrison Ford’s Deckard but has opted to save his life. Here, on a DTLA rooftop in the rain, Batty passes the Voight-Kampf Test, flipping this turtle rightside up. And as Deckard sits, astonished, Batty gives that speech… and then dies. 

It’s become a monumental little monologue because the existential howl at the center of it is so familiar to us all (and because Hauer’s delivery of these few lines is coursing with intense power and pathos). We live in a modern world, and few of us believe in eternal souls. We have come to accept that when we die, that’s it – lights are out, the show is over and there is nothing else. Every unexpressed thought, every feeling, every experience we have ever had is snuffed out as the neurons go dark and cold. 

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BLADE RUNNER 2049: Sentience, Self and SciFi

Spoilers for BLADE RUNNER 2049 follow.

The original BLADE RUNNER always left me cold. Except for the Roy Batty speech at the end, Ridley Scott’s influential flop has the temperature and the sheen of an intricately wrought steel blade; I can appreciate the craftsmanship and the edge, but I can’t hold it close. I never connected with the film on an emotional level, and I definitely never connected with Rick Deckard, a character whose cool remove removed him from my ability to care. I appreciate the film – design-wise it’s a masterpiece, and cinematographically it’s stunning – but I’ve never loved it. Hell, I’ve never LIKED it, and I’ve seen it a whole bunch of times (on screens small and big, and I’ve also watched every cut). It’s the film I like the least that I’ve tried the most.

The humanity missing from BLADE RUNNER – a movie that asks what makes us human – is present and beating and bleeding in BLADE RUNNER 2049. A remarkable follow-up that feels fully respectful while also forging new ground, BR2049 is a personal science fiction epic that foregrounds the moral and philosophical questions that BLADE RUNNER obfuscated behind its design and posing. By reversing the question BLADE RUNNER left us with – is our Blade Runner a replicant becomes is our Blade Runner a human – BR2049 blows open the stifling stuffiness of the future and brings the dilemma home.

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