Movies

Relistening To ‘Blade Runner’s ‘Tears In Rain’ Monologue

The runaway rebel replicant (i.e. bioengineered humanoid) Roy Batty delivered the following iconic monologue, right before his synthetic body shut down. This was after chasing and confronting the blade runner (i.e. replicant hunter) Rick Deckard, who was also in pursuit, to kill him —

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.’

(Some notes first… The ships are interstellar spacecraft. The constellation Orion’s ‘shoulder’ is the star Betelgeuse. C-beams are science-fictitious laser rays, used perhaps in wars. The Tannhäuser Gate as an imaginary junction might be named after Richard Wagner’s operatic depiction of a poet knight who fell from grace.)

This poignant speech spurs many existential questions[1] Was Batty expressing incredulous wonder and amazement at the richness of life itself? [2] Did he experience more mind-blowing cosmic awe and beauty than most humans? [3] Was he implying that he appreciates and understands life more than us? [4] If so, does this not make his life equally or more worthwhile, and worthy to save? [5] Was he exclaiming regret that these memories cannot be passed on? [6] Was he attached to them, unwilling to let them and his life go?

[7] Are these moments not totally lost, as they are often rewatched and imagined by fans of the film? [9] Are our lives’ moments not trickling like tears of joy and sorrow, mixed and washed ‘away’ by the rains of time? What should remain? [10] Was he paradoxically or finally prepared to die, graciously embracing death? Does he not worry about the hereafter? (His releasing of a dove represents making peace and ‘giving up the ghost’, but where to?)

Most of all, his words almost beg the audience to ponder this question — ‘Is Batty sentient after all?’ He had deluded attachment to life and aversion to death. With these three poisons of attachment, aversion and delusion like us, how exactly is he different from us?

There was the vague (Voight-Kampff) empathy test depicted for detecting replicants, to tell them apart from humans. It is based on subjective interpretations of verbal and physical reactions to provocative questions, to ‘determine’ if genuine humanlike empathy exists within those tested. Yet, the real gauge must be in terms of their intentional actions.

Despite knowing he was dying due to an expiry date built-in once created, Batty decided to save Deckard who was hanging on a ledge, fearing for his life. Is this not ‘sympathy for the devil’, empathy in deed? Seemingly in turn stirring empathy in Deckard with his bittersweet last words, does he not make us empathise with him too? Perhaps, the entire movie is actually an empathy test for its viewers — us.

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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