Each year, moviegoers see hundreds of death scenes and corresponding death speeches in movies, but this particular short speech (only 50 seconds) is one of the most poetic and memorable in the history of cinema. In fact, philosopher and author Mark Rowlands wrote, “[the speech is] perhaps the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history.” So what exactly is he raving about?
For the answer, let’s step into a time machine and travel back to 1982 — the year that neo-noir science fiction film Blade Runner premiered. The film, directed by Ridley Scott (with a majestic and haunting score by Vangelis), was based on Philip K. Dick’s novel titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? published in 1968. The film takes place in a dystopian metropolis (specifically Los Angeles in 2019, which is, um, now… scary) when a group of replicants (bioengineered androids manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation) return to earth after escaping from a work colony out in space. The leader of the gang of replicants is Roy Batty (played by Dutch actor Ruger Hauer). We then meet Rick Deckard (played by a youthful Harrison Ford), a burnt-out blade runner (a cop who hunts down replicants) comes out of retirement to hunt down Batty and his crew. Near the end of the film, Deckard and Batty are engaged in a cat-and-mouse chase sequence though abandoned buildings in the evening — and in the pouring rain. There is a point when Deckard slips and falls, but Batty reaches down to save Deckard, knowing that Deckard is determined to kill him. As the rain pours down on Batty, and his life is slipping away, Batty looks at Deckard and reflects on his life, while a poignant Vangelis melody plays in the background:
“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 speech is so famous, so frequently quoted, that it is referred to as the “tears in the rain” monologue. In an interview with British magazine Radio Times, Hauer explained how he changed the original script, written by David Peoples and Hampton Fancher, the night before the shooting of that scene. Hauer elaborates, “The irony is that all I did in Blade Runner was… and I’m not saying it’s nothing, but it’s so little. I kept two lines, because I thought they were poetic. I thought they belonged to this character, because somewhere in his digital head he has poetry, and knows what it is. He feels it! And while his batteries are going, he comes up with the two lines… You know, I think a lot of scripts are overwritten. The overwritten stuff comes from the writer and all the executives, but the audience can feel it, and even the best actor cannot sell me with language that is overwritten… So, I look at the script, and I look at my part, because I don’t want to touch anybody [else’s] parts. I shave everything that I feel you don’t need. [In Blade Runner] Ridley gave me all the freedom, because he wanted it to be a character-driven story. He’d never done a film character-driven. He said, ‘This is what I want to do – bring me anything you can come up with, and I’ll take it on if I like it.’”
So Hauer reviewed the script which read: “I’ve seen things… seen things you little people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion bright as magnesium… I rode on the back decks of a blinker and watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments… they’ll be gone,” and revised the last line: “All those moment will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.” Hauer adds: “For the end line I was hoping to come up with one line where Roy, because he understands he has very little time, expresses one bit of the DNA of life that he’s felt. How much he liked it. Only one life.” In another interview, Hauer explains the death soliloquy this way: “[Roy wanted to] make his mark on existence… the replicant in the final scene, by dying, shows Deckard what a real man is made of.”
35 years after his work on Blade Runner, Hauer is still amazed by how people remember that scene and that death monologue; Hauer said, “All I did was write one line – I edited, and I came up with one line. That’s the poet in me – that’s my poet, I own him. Great! And then for that line to have such fucking wings – can you imagine what that feels like?”
Sadly, Hauer’s passed away on July 19, 2019, at the age of 75, of an unspecified illness at his home in Beetsterzwaag, Netherlands. It is not known what his final words were, but perhaps he found some comfort knowing that his work — and timeless words — will not be lost in time, like tears in the rain.
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For further reading: https://www.radiotimes.com/news/film/2019-07-25/blade-runner-tears-in-rain-speech/
Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul Sammon
The Ridley Scott Encyclopedia by Laurence Raw