A Science Fiction Moment

This scene - excerpted from the 1982 film Blade Runner - is one of my favorite sci-fi moments.

In it, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) eulogizes himself in front of the man who has been sent to kill him, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). Besides being beautifully acted and filmed, the scene is exceptional for a number of reasons.

The segment follows a climatic confrontation between Batty and Deckard. Batty, a superhuman clone called a "replicant" - has bested Deckard - a law enforcement officer known as a "blade runner" - in combat.

Deckard is assigned the task of "retiring" Batty and his rag-tag group of replicant followers early in the film, after they steal a spaceship and crash land on Earth.

Even though the replicants have been created with a fail-safe "off-switch" - a four-year life span - their designers also endeavoured to make them as autonomous as possible, a decision which has deadly consequences in the course of the film.

Batty is driven by an instinct for self-preservation common to most sentient creatures. Yet his drive is heightened dramatically - the product of genetic engineering and circumstance.

Consequently, Batty's compulsion to follow his instinct is even more undeniable. It's this compulsion that prompts the replicant to - quite literally - meet his maker, and soon after, kill his maker.

Batty knows he is condemned to die in four years, and seeks to delay his expiration. In a very direct, visceral way, his desire to get "more life" is the same as humanity's longing for immortality.

By the time viewers reach this final scene, it's clear that the replicant's quest has not been about a fear of death, as much as it's about having enough time to really live.

Batty's final moving soliloquy and the subsequent montage of shots serve as testimony to his humanity. Deckard is alive because of the replicant's merciful act, but also because Batty needs a witness to the miraculous events of his own life.

Both of these expressions are indicative of self-reflexive consciousness, and establish Batty as the sympathetic anti-hero, even if it's only for the last minute of his life.

The dove Batty holds and releases upon his death could represent his soul's journey into the afterlife, certainly.

But it could just as easily symbolize the wisps of the replicant's all-to-human sentience, borne aloft by the wind, and "lost in time, like tears in rain..."