I’ve always had a strange relationship with Blade Runner as a film. As a teenager it was constantly in my forever-changing top five film list but, if my younger self was being brutally honest, he’d admit he used to watch Blade Runner just for Roy Batty’s dying monologue. Delivered in an amazing performance by Rutger Hauer, it has been described as “perhaps the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history”.
While watching a cookery programme recently on TV the presenter was describing how powerful our senses are in conjuring up old memories. The presenter eats a retro chocolate bar and tells us how he’s being transported back to his childhood. This is the same evoking of involuntary memory that Proust derives from the first taste of the ‘…little piece of madeleine’ in A Remembrance of Things Past. For me films have that exact same power and, whenever I hear that distinctive Vangelis score, or see the rain slowly pour down Rutger Hauer’s bloody face, I’m transported back to my youth. My 13 year-old self sitting on the edge of the sofa, not understanding why he is being moved to tears by a monologue he has no understanding of.
It was only when I saw the monologue written down that I realised how short it was. My memory was always that it was this epic, rolling, almost-shakespearean speech which lasted minutes…
“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 Tannhaser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
If you watch the making-of documentary, ‘Dangerous Days – Making Blade Runner’, it becomes more than clear who is in fact responsible for the speech even if Rutger Hauer is more than a little modest about it. The director Ridley Scott, and screenwriter David Peoples both say Hauer wrote the monologue. A speech did feature in the script but it was very different, even if it did feature phrases such as ‘c-beams’ and ‘Tanhauser Gate’. It starts as follows…
“I’ve known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been off world and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound of the Pluttion camps with seat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion… I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it, felt it…!”
Hauer has stated that he simply cut the original scripted speech by several lines and just added the last line, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain”, which he wrote himself. However, when you look at the two different versions, you can clearly see the difference in quality. Hauer has since said he thought that the original speech had no bearing on the film so he did some editing the night before shooting without the Ridley Scott knowing. In an interview with Dan Jolin, Hauer said that these final lines show that Batty wanted to “make his mark on existence… the robot in the final scene, by dying, shows Deckard what a real man is made of.”
So as Blade Runner hits its 30th anniversary and yet another special edition DVD/Blu Ray comes out; I’ll be suckered into buying one, not just because it’s one of the greatest films ever made that I, now older, can enjoy from the first second to the last, but also because, when Vangelis’s ‘Tears In Rain’ starts and Roy Batty saves Rick Deckard from falling to his death, I’m transported back immediately to youth… A feeling which we all know as we get older is priceless!