Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wonderful Cinematic Moment

I just finished discussing this scene (as I watched it) with Brianne and feel like describing this again here. Near the end of Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for Philip K. Dick fans...), there's a character shift in Roy Batty (yes, I know in the book it's Baty) that is sheer beauty. Oh, and yes, this is the Director's Cut, so I don't have to deal with those annoying voice overs. The work speaks for itself.

Roy (an replicant, a.k.a. android) and Deckard (the copy who's trying to "retire" the replicants) had been chasing each other through the abandoned building, trying to kill each other. Deckard realized he was no match for Roy and tried to jump to another building to get away. He didn't quite make the jump and grabbed onto a ledge, clinging for life. Roy successfully makes the leap. This is the beginning of the moment.

Roy, squatting over Deckard, says, "Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave." Roy, being an replicant, had been a slave to human masters. But replicants were not merely machines or robots. They were built with two distinct features: 1) The ability to learn and to develop emotions (making them more like humans), and 2) A four year life span (drawing the line between human and replicant). Roy served his masters as a slave, but also realized he was a slave to time. He could only experience a small amount of life because of the built-in life span.

As Deckard's grip is slipping, Roy smiles. He knows that Deckard is experiencing that fear first-hand. Deckard had been afraid that Roy would kill him. Now, he is afraid that he is going to die anyways because he can't hold on. His hands slip. At that moment, Roy grabs Deckard's arm to prevent him from falling. The hand Roy uses has a nail sticking out in both directions (more on that in a moment), which means that nail also stabs Deckard in the forearm. The evil, villainous, murderous replicant is saving the cop's life. Cue the dramatic '80s music (hey, this was made in like 1982, ok...).

After setting Deckard down safely on the roof, Roy begins a wonderful speech where he describes some of the fantastic things that he has seen. The speech culminates in, "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. die." Then Roy's head drops. The replicant is dead.

This scene, I will be man enough to admit, always brings tears to my eyes. I know, it's sci-fi, and genre works aren't supposed to be profound and moving. That's a testament to the magnificence of this movie. Roy began his "life" as an emotionless robot. As he learned to feel, he learned how wondrous life can be. And in this climax, the hunted became the hunter became the forgiver. He learned that every single moment of everyone's life is precious. While his life would soon be over, he had the ability to grant Deckard more time and chose to do so.

But what always gets me about this scene is that last line. "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain." When a person dies, every memory, every emotion, every experience, every laugh, every cry, every fear, every celebration...they're gone forever. To me, that is a reminder to savor every moment. To be thankful every morning when you take that first wakeful breath. To be glad even when you experience pain, because that pain is a reminder that you are alive. I think that is the significance of the fact that Roy uses the arm with the nail sticking out. Deckard simultaneously gets to experience the joy of salvation and the pain of the injury. But both of those are signs of life.

All of this changes the character of Roy from villain to a pitied figure. He has committed murder, but I can't help but feel sad that he dies. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. This scene captures the sublime essence of life better than any other than I can think of in any movie. And that line is hauntingly melodic. The only line relating to death or loss that I like more is, "I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."

Last thought on Blade Runner: This may be the only movie (at least, that I can think of right now) that I enjoy more and think is artistically better than the book from which it is drawn.


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