Alan Rickman: The Man who Fell for Me

Die Hard Spoilers Ahead.

In the late 90s, when I was a petite fool, Die Hard (AKA the most explosively badass piece of awesome ever filmed) reigned supreme as the movie my brother and I had watched most often. How often? Like every Friday rewatch for five years straight often. It was the centerpiece of our holy Action trinity alongside Terminator II: Judgment Day and Speed.

So naturally, I had plenty of time to sift through what I felt about Alan Rickman’s performance as Hans Gruber. Initially I remember being overcome with the unadulterated fear of realizing that a character like that, an evil man just like that could be out there somewhere. A man who I might have passed by on the street a hundred times. A man who could turn his cold gaze upon me any day.

I remember feeling eternally relieved when I saw him plummet to his death at the end of the movie. Hans Gruber was possibly the first live-action, non-Mufasa character I’ve seen die on-screen and that is definitely the death scene I have most often seen (fun rhyme unintentional). Each time I watch it, I know there is something crucially potent about Hans’ fall to death. Of course, it could be because Rickman elected to do the 40 feet drop himself and the ‘The Fall’ symbolism of the fall was very well executed. But it is also because of the visceral tension Rickman\Gruber manages to build that cannot be released until Bruce Willis\John McClane releases Gruber’s hand and lets him die.

This is the signature fullness and finality he also brings to his portrayals of Snape and the Sheriff of Nottingham. A style that brings to mind ‘Enantiodromia’, the Jungian principle that the overproduction of any force produces its opposite in due course. I see this principle in action in Rickman’s prodigious manufacture of unrest that is brought to an end only with a final exponential flourish. And then a warm flood of calm is allowed to rush in.

“Oh shit, Alan Rickman is actually dead” therefore is a very strange thing to think indeed. His death was abrupt and word of it stumbled onto news-feeds clumsily. It didn’t seem full and final. But there is beauty in the contrast between his usual dramatic flourish exits and the sobering, low-key way in which he finally departed.

My very rational fear of the Hans Gruber-Boogeyman matured sometime in the mid 2000s into awe of the fact that there is a man out there who could so masterfully balance being charming and loathsome, seductive and wicked in his portrayal of what could have been just another bad guy in just another action movie. A man who summons an air of menace so strong that it wafts beyond the fourth wall.

Its an incredible loss to the visual arts that that man is no longer out there.

Happy trails, Hans ❤

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