Friday, August 8, 2008

More human than human.

As an actor, I can appreciate a good monologue. Just you up on stage or screen. There is a great story that Anthony Hopkins told of when he was a young actor at the Old Vic, understudying and acting alongside the great Sir Laurence Olivier. Olivier told Hopkins that when you are delivering a line, "You're the star of the show." Slightly puzzled, Hopkins asked, "Why?" "Well," replied Olivier, "You're the only one speaking at the time."

When Blade Runner first came out, it was derided by many as all special effects, and no substance. It was only until many years later that critics began to reverse that opinion and see the film for what it is: a flat out masterpiece, not only of sci-fi, but just in general It influenced so many things that came after it.

It also asks the central question; "What does it mean to be human?" Rutger Hauer's monologue near the end of the movie has been generally recognized as one of the most poignant moments ever placed on film. It also wasn't in the script. Hauer improvised the scene in his trailer, showed it to Ridley Scott, who wisely decided that it was better than what was in the script, so he let Hauer run with it. The result is pure magic:

Life, death, morality, ethics, spirituality, meaning, humanism, it is all covered in this movie. This one scene compresses so much of that into a magical moment.

This cut is from the most recent Blade Runner, "The Final Cut" (There are several versions of the movie - long story about that.) In the original theatrical release however, Harrison Ford ("Deckard") has a voice over for this scene, that was one of several in the movie. While many Blade Runner purists like myself don't really care for the voice overs', this one has stayed with me, and is the one I actually enjoy:

Deckard: "I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments, he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life. Anybody's life. My life. All he wanted was the same answers the rest of us want. Where do I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die."

While sitting in my favorite coffee shop today, it started to rain hard outside, and this scene flashed into my head. Whenever I worked rainy summer nights in Brooklyn, it always reminded me of Blade Runner. Whenever I dealt with death, I thought of Roy Batty. (Hauer's character.)

When I dealt with my own death, I was Deckard. I don't know why I was spared, but then again, who does?


buffalodickdy said...

Artifical Life, cloning, thinking machines, all make us ask questions... Sci-Fi wrters are very good at predicting the future!

Peter said...

I knew I'd heard that line from your header in a movie, but it now finally dawns on me it was Rutger Hauer's monologue in Bladerunner.

Count me in as a fan, but than again, Hauer's Dutch, so I might be slightly biased.

Teresa said...

I didn't get around to seeing Blade Runner until 1990, and it instantly became my very favorite movie. I loved the theme, the atmosphere, and the amazing story. I was a bit surprised to learn that at first it was a flop, especially among critics.

One day I was at the library and decided to see what the critics had said about it. I looked up several magazines and newspapers from that time and was amazed to find that two or three of the critics (at least) had obviously not even bothered to see the film. It seemed as though they based their critique on either the press release blurb, or the Philip K. Dick novel.

At any rate it would seem that the criticism that Blade Runner had no substance was erroneous. I would think that the question of what makes something human, and is it morally okay to kill a thinking, emotional being as the height of substance.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Hi Theresa, thanks for stopping by.

Yes indeed, the critics missed the mark, but Scott and everyone else were vindicated in the end. The interesting thing is that while based on the PK Dick book, it differs from it considerably in many ways. It stands on its own as a masterwork of sci-fi/futurism, and has stood the test of time.

If you have not seen "The Final Cut" version of the film, which Scott considers the definitive version, (and I agree) then it is worthwhile to rent it.

I tried to see your blog, but your profile is not enabled.

Dragonfly Dreaming said...

* hangs head * I have never, ever seen Blade Runner. Does that make me a bad person? I did however see the Dark Night yesterday. Sweet mother of God, talk about star power. Heath rocked the Joker. Hard. What a fucking loss.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Buffalo - Yeah, they can be good at it. Just look at Arthur C. Clarke.

Peter-LOL! I KNEW you were going to say something about Hauer being Dutch, I just knew it!

Claudia-Ok, this is your homework assignment. Go out and rent Blade Runner (The Final Cut version.) If you are expecting something like Batman, forget it, but, what you will see is just how so many movies were influenced from it. (Matrix, Dark City, several others.) This is also, in my opinion and many others, the best thing Harrison Ford has ever done. There is a lot going on in it, so you have to pay attention.