When Rutger Hauer’s death was announced yesterday, most people I knew or followed on social media quoted from his death scene in Blade Runner. It was a bittersweet moment of communal solidarity that showed just how memorable and effective that scene is. A scene about death in a movie that is, arguably, in large part about death. And the 1982 film is set in 2019—Hauer’s character had that memorable death scene in, and now Hauer has died in, 2019.
And this monologue was improvised by Hauer, which seems incredible for how succinctly and elegantly it captures the essential character struggles and themes of the film. It’s an epiphany that ties together the piles of decay in the city, Deckard’s guilt, and, of course, Roy’s motives. This is why Roy, Hauer’s character, has done “questionable things”. Life’s too short, for him especially. And even if he’s remembered for a long time, his experiences will be lost, every feeling and inspiration that were so profound to him just becomes in imperceptible drop of water in the flood observed by others.
He delivers the monologue in a provokingly casual manner, his rage and urgency transformed into a kind of graceful bitterness. It’s the Japanese concept of mono no aware, the consciousness and acknowledgement of inevitable death. It’s neither a celebration or quite a lamentation. It’s a finer, rarer sort of thing. There’s no longer really a point for Roy to communicate his needs or desires any more than there’s a real pragmatic reason for him to save Deckard’s life. His final acts are of creation because he’s been stripped of all worldly motivation. It’s one of the most beautiful moments in the history of cinema.
I decided to go back to the beginning of Hauer’s career last night when I found the first episode of Floris, the Dutch television series he starred in, was on YouTube with English subtitles. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, who would go on to direct many successful films like RoboCop, Total Recall, and Elle, I found the show to be an entertaining and intelligently written cross between Robin Hood and James Bond. The show debuted 50 years ago, 1969, when Hauer was a very handsome and charming lad of 25:
Twitter Sonnet #1260
A business built of sticks appears at dawn.
A lousy ring was dug in biker tracks.
Confetti’s crushed within the plastic pawn.
A leaky barque was built of broken backs.
In random cases coke contained a gem.
The times condensed betwixt the sooty walls.
The strangest eggs accrue upon a limb.
The chimes resound aligned in metal stalls.
The edges kept a modest space of cloud.
On ev’ry cell a skin permits a view.
Transparent drapes oblige the busy crowd.
A splintered block conducts the ragged clew.
Another word adorned the ancient trunk.
In ink and paper seas the jury’s sunk.