Since the announcement of Rutger Hauer’s death last week there’s been a lot of comment about his part in Blade Runner. I’ve not heard much said about his very surreal Guinness adverts though. I’m sure, at the time, I remember hearing that they conceived the campaign so that he would look like a pint of Guinness, golden hair atop his head, dark clothing as body of the pint. I even remember a story that his contract demanded he only ever dress in those colours. It was probably all schoolboy myth and rumour but it was the eighties… in which case I’d probably left school by then; but why should surreal advertising make sense especially where false memories are concerned?
Hauer was more remembered for his portrayal of Roy Batty in Blade Runner (that name would never have been chosen by a British author). His most evocative scene was, easily, the death scene in the rain opposite Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard.
For the uninitiated, there must be some, Batty is a replicant, a sort of genetically engineered synthetic human, only designed to live for four years. In the case of the replicants in the film they know they only have a short life span and they are looking for a way to live longer. Rick Deckard is tasked with retiring them after they have gone rogue and started killing people while on their search for longer life.
One of the themes of the film is that replicants are implanted with memories of eperiences that predate their lives, so that they remember times before they were switched on. (It wouldn’t be appropriate to say born.) Thus, the film explores concepts of personal memory, identity, the nature of the self and even the nature of reality and how we experience it. It’s the sort of philosophy that the sci-fi community really goes for but basically it’s metaphysics.
At the end of the film there’s a scene where Decker is with Roy in Roy’s last moments before his programmed death. It’s a scene that geeks across the world like to quote where Batty talks of the things he’s seen, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. He goes on to say, as the rain pours down, that, after his death, those memories will all be gone like tears in rain. It’s a great scene.
So, this is what gets me. I’ve heard many media discussions of this sci-fi classic, friends have quoted it verbatim, it’s on T shirts and underwear for all I know. Batty knows he’s a replicant and he knows he carries implanted memories. But not once, not ever have I heard, never has any media pundit or sci-fi super nerd ever pointed to the possibility that those recollections, memories of attack ships on fire or C-beams glittering might also be implanted.
Batty knows he’s a replicant, aware he has just a four-year lifespan. So, he knows his childhood memories are fake. How does he know those memories are real? Might he have had a two-year lifespan and the rest is fake? Maybe he was brought online last week?
Surely, those memories, especially as they are so extraordinary, might be fake and, if those memories were implanted, it’s most likely, almost guaranteed in fact, that they were also implanted into some other replicant. Instead of being lost amid countless raindrops perhaps every raindrop contains a copy of those extraordinary memories.
Is that what the film was all about and nobody has spotted it?