Friday, July 26, 2019


Rutger Hauer is dead at 75 of "an unspecified illness" (per Wikipedia).

I've seen a few of the man's movies:

Nighthawks (1981)
Blade Runner (1982)
Ladyhawke (1985)
The Hitcher (1986)
Blind Fury (1989)
Sin City (2005)
Batman Begins (2005)

With a slinky, tawny acting style, and a vocal delivery that always felt slightly off-kilter, mainly thanks to that hard-to-place accent of his, Rutger Hauer had the type of screen presence that grabbed you and held you. His flinty stare could be haunting; a seemingly tender smile paired with that stare could freeze your very soul. Hauer struck me as the type who was in Hollywood but not of Hollywood, to borrow and twist the Christian idiom.

A pacifist and environmentalist, Hauer had training as a combat medic. His early life involved bouncing back and forth between the performing arts and the military—between freewheeling creativity and rigid discipline. The movies I listed above are only the tip of the iceberg: Hauer was a huge figure in arthouse films along the Hollywood/Netherlands axis, having collaborated on many projects with director Paul Verhoeven, who is known in the States mainly for his gory, Brian De Palma-style science-fiction movies. At some point, I may look up The Legend of the Holy Drinker and the reputedly naughty Turkish Delight just to get a taste of the more esoteric side of Hauer. He was a good enough sport to engage in schlock, which is why I'll also be looking up his Hobo With a Shotgun, which came out in 2011.

Hauer's acting range was wide enough that he could play both noble and sleazy characters, most of whom radiated a strange profundity, as if they lived between and among scintillating layers of meaning. For my money, he will always best be known for his role as the replicant Roy Batty in 1982's Blade Runner, where he played opposite Harrison Ford and delivered a speech that, according to the movie trivia, he partially rewrote and/or improvised.

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.

I have to confess that I had always heard the line as "sea beams," not "C-beams": beautiful, shimmering shafts of light seen under water, not far from a sunken Tannhäuser Gate. I imagine the "C" stands for the speed of light, so "C-beams" are probably some sort of laser weapon if they're in keeping with the beautifully bellicose theme evoked by "attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion."

Well, Mr. Hauer, for each of us, there is indeed a time to die. We're all moving forward on the conveyor belt of life, none of us quite sure when the ride will end, but all of us perfectly sure that it will end. Thank you for decades of entertainment. I'll be sure to explore your arthouse works in the years to come. Rest in peace.


The Maximum Leader said...

As is being pointed out all over the interwebs... Rutger Hauer dies in July 2019. Roy Batty dies in November 2019. Both died in 2019! Coincidence! I think not.

Kevin Kim said...

"Time to die," indeed.

John from Daejeon said...

It's a shame that Rutger's excellent performance in Escape Fro Sobibor wasn't/isn't seen be more people.