The Dutch actor Rutger Hauer passed away this week, and he was a personal favourite of mine, having appeared in some films and television that I have quite enjoyed over the years, including a few that were favourites of mine during my teen years. So as a tribute to a talented actor who I have very much enjoyed watching over the years, I thought I would discuss some of his work that I have seen, and how they impacted me at the time.
I will admit that I have not ever watched his European films, only some of his English-language work.
“Sin City” (2005) was not a film I particularly enjoyed, being too sordid for my tastes. That being said, it did contain some excellent performances. Hauer played Cardinal Roarke, a member of a wealthy and corrupt family, who started by covering up the murders of his protege Kevin, and ended up joining in. Hauer’s portrayal of a world-weary and dissolute man, who had long since forgotten even lip-service to his church and God, was very convincing and chilling.
“Escape from Sobibor” (1987) involved a Nazi extermination camp during World War 2. It is based on the real life story of a mass breakout by the prisoners at this camp. It is an excellent film, depicting the most successful uprising in a camp, which I strongly recommend. Hauer played Lieutenant Aleksandr Perchersky, a Russian Jewish prisoner of war, and received a Golden Globe award for his performance. It’s really a fantastic film, and a fantastic performance by Hauer.
“Flesh and Blood” (1985) was a costume drama set in the sixteenth century. Hauer played a member of a group of mercenaries who were betrayed by their leader after helping to overthrow a city. They are evicted from the city without the loot they had been promised, and Hauer’s character Martin takes over leadership. Hauer was great fun in this role, and it’s a fun film to watch. His character is a bit crazy, extremely ruthless, and not a nice guy in any way. The rest of the cast are also good to watch, and it was directed by Paul Verhoeven, whose other credits include “Robocop” and “Total Recall”. It’s definitely worth a look.
“Ladyhawke” (1985) was my favourite film for many years when I was in my teens, when I had already formed my life-long fondness for science-fiction and fantasy. I fell in love with the story of the bewitched lovers and the thief who helps them break the curse. All the cast were good in this, and Hauer plays the knight who is separated from his love (Michelle Pfeiffer) and obsessed with revenge, brilliantly. The story is a skillful blend of old fairy tale standards of star-crossed lovers, wicked magicians (in this case a bishop), adventure, and good triumphing over evil. It lightens the mood with humour, mostly provided by supporting actors Matthew Broderick and Leo McKern. It contained beautiful location scenery in Italy, some brilliant direction by Richard Donner, and some spectacular action sequences. It also included some brilliant displays of riding and a couple of stunningly beautiful horses. This and the previous film I spoke of are two of the best of this type of film in the eighties, so if you like fantasy, go watch it.
I’ve left the best for last. “Blade Runner” (1982) was Hauer’s second English language film and the one that was responsible for introducing him to English-speaking audiences. It remains to this day one of the most inspired science fiction films of all time. While the star, Harrison Ford, was fabulous, I would maintain that Hauer stole the show as the ‘replicant’ (artificial human) Roy Batty. The character of Roy knows that he has been designed to be short-lived and seeks to find his maker and prolong his life. Hauer gave this role a desperation and dignity that was simply compelling. The audience has been told that he was designed as a soldier, and he is seen committing murder in a gruesome way. I think this makes his actions in the finale even more compelling. The climax culminates with what has become a famous short speech from Roy, and Hauer’s delivery is gut-wrenching. If you’ve never seen “Blade Runner” then you are missing out on a cinema classic. I have always found it as close to perfect as most films ever get.
Rutger Hauer made many films in his long career. He was mostly relegated to what we might call ‘B movies’, and many of these films were not memorable. But there are some real gems in the mix, and it is these that have made me a fan from way back. But as with all artists that pass away, we have their work to remember them by.
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.