Blade Runner is among my favourite films. In a veritable symphony of cinematic elements — cinematography, script, production design, soundtrack, direction, acting — it doesn’t miss a note. The film touches on all the major themes of the human condition: love, death, good and evil, redemption, justice, ethics, greed, passion. It’s philosophically spiritual and passionately physical. All of that culminates in this scene that ends Roy Batty’s life, but also witnesses the redemption of it.
Batty, the android, the replicant, had been on a murderous spree, killing every scientist and engineer he could find who’d been involved in creating him, a nearly perfect being yet with the artificially brief lifespan of just 4 years. Moreover, Deckerd had killed all his friends, possibly everyone he’d ever loved including Priss, the android/woman he loved above all. This scene occurs at the end of the breathless chase which Deckerd has every reason to believe will end with his death should Batty catch him.
The chase has ended. There Batty stands in his triumphant moment as Deckerd’s life literally slips away. “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it?” Deckerd is asked for the second time in the film. For the briefest moment, Deckerd is falling to his death. The lightning flash of Batty’s reflexes and extraordinary strength pull him back to the rooftop, throw him in a heap, where he gathers himself, shocked at the sudden change in his fate. Is it temporary?
Batty sits. Pensive.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
The grimace-like smile Batty offers up in this moment… Rutger Hauer’s finest moment in a film filled with exquisite moments — the film of his career — It’s as if he’s saying, “I know something now, about life and death and love, about redemption and forgiveness, that you will only know at the hour of your own death.” In just a moment more, even that is lost to the rain splashing down like a cascade of tears.
I’ve given you the director’s cut of this scene above — cinematically, it’s a better edit — but accompanying the original scene is an often maligned voice-over narration read by Harrison Ford. As Deckerd watches the rain fall on the dead enigma before him, Ford, in that rich, thrumming voice of his…
Not just his life. Anybody’s life.
Not nearly so poetic as Batty’s last words, but…that’s essentially what I’d read into Roy Batty’s final moments as well. And maybe… maybe something else. In that moment is a transcendence. Hatred, anger, violence. In that moment, Batty discovers something elemental and pure. Love. Not love of life. But love itself.