I recently watched Blade Runner (1982) with a few friends over the weekend, and I thought it was excellent. They did an incredible job with the movie’s visuals – the atmosphere is moody and oppressive, claustrophobic with swarms of civilians bustling about an obviously overpopulated metropolis. The entire film is tinted a somber ocean blue and shimmers in artificial neon light to create a dystopian and gloomy backdrop for the movie’s introspection in consciousness – it all works very cohesively. It’s crazy how they managed to pull off such an impressive visual scale of its city and tech without the use of CGI, in 1982! (As a side note, the setting of the movie is in 2019, so it looks like we’re just one year away from flying cars, killer androids, and eternal rain. I look forward to it!) If you haven’t seen the movie, obviously give it a shot, and spoilers ahead.
One scene in particular stands out to pretty much everyone who’s seen it, and the main actor in that scene is said still to get comments about it 30 years later. Of course, I’m talking about Roy Batty’s final few lines, or the “Tears in rain monologue.” (This one-minute scene is apparently famous enough to warrant its own Wikipedia page!) Here’s the transcript:
“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.”
Batty’s speech is a recognition of his own humanity, an acceptance of his mortality, and by extension, our own. Batty is a combat replicant, genetically engineered for the sole purpose of war. He is literally designed to be emotionless, and yet, this supposedly expendable, programmatic husk of a “non-human” being comments on the beauty of his experiences, even those in the violent landscape of war. The monologue’s fictional imagery is somehow easy to picture; gargantuan structures blaze in silence, as a crumbling ship and its passengers become the dust in cosmic wind; a vivid mosaic of bright color stretch through the black void of space, massive in scale to Batty’s small form. It’s these experiences that Batty, who can be considered no more alive than the code in a program, has remembered and described as “things you people wouldn’t believe,” or the things that Batty sees immense wonder in – these deeply impactful memories that his “meaningless, programmed” life was truly lived out with great purpose, if not solely for the reason that he had lived and experienced the beauty of his universe at all. Here is Blade Runner’s acknowledgement of Batty’s humanity: his ability to view the universe with conscious, wondrous eyes.
The second half of the monologue is Batty’s acceptance of his inherently ephemeral nature. Replicants are designed only to live for four years before automatically shutting down, and it’s in a previous scene that Batty actually “meets his maker,” only to angrily kill him when he is told that there’s no possible way to extend his lifespan. Here, in the final moments before his death is when Batty has fully accepted the fate he fought to avoid, he realizes that while all those previously described memories will be “lost in time, like tears in rain,” noting the insignificance of his existence in the context of a greater universe, he did not live in vain. The “questionable things” that Batty has conducted over his lifespan is contrasted by the empathy expressed in his saving of Deckard, a man dispatched to kill off him and his rogue replicant friends. Thus, he is perfectly content to die, joyous and appreciative of having had the chance to affirm his humanity.
Blade Runner’s messages are incredibly thoughtful, and I’m honestly very unequipped to analyze the nuance of the film. Nonetheless, the “Tears in rain monologue” stuck by me and I wanted to share my thoughts. The sentiment of the scene is similar to other existential works like The Stranger and Waiting for Godot, but the fantastic visual acting, gorgeous background track, and wholly poetic delivery make “Tears in rain” quite special.