Based on a novel by Philip K Dick and directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), A Scanner Darkly is a strange movie. This is the eighth movie that was based on Philip’s novels and considering how well some of them did, they decided to go all out on this one using a strange style of animation. Blade Runner was, of course, the first one, with Total Recall and Screamers coming in the following years. Fuck me, now that I think about it, these were some of my favorite movies growing up along with The Thing and Alien.
The animation technique used in A Scanner Darkly is called interpolated rotoscope and it consists of artists manually drawing over each frame of footage. The results are truly amazing, probably because Linklater already did a similar movie called Waking Life, back in 2001. So, we will be following an undercover cop in the near future trying to catch some bad drug dealers. While the main plot seems quite generic, the themes this movie explores are nothing but. I love how they used the animation to exactly portray how fucked up drug use can feel at times.
This is a science fiction thriller, set in a dystopian future that seems more and more like an inevitability. Especially if you take into account the fact that not only this book but also many other science fiction works are basically sounding warning alarms about the future. And they have been doing it for quite some time. And I’m sure we’re going to end up in an even worse future. But hey, at least there will be drugs there so there’s that. Just think of Strange Days starring Ralph Fiennes.
Bob Arctor is a man with a lot of problems. After America lost the war on drugs, a new and powerful substance D has become the drug of choice. Bob is a cop and he must find out who’s dealing this drug. He himself being a drug addict, Bob is able to infiltrate the network and work with these people. As events start to unfold, he slowly starts questioning the basic premises of just about everything…
Based on Philip’s own drug experiences, A Scanner Darkly is above all, an honest movie about drugs. There are so many interesting concepts and visions that I just have to mention a few: ever-changing suits that conceal the identity, huge surveillance system, state policies… The ever-present question of morality and the choices we make every day is further blurred by drug use. Moreover, it creates this strange world of concepts, theories, and bare human existence. Drugs are a key factor here, unlocking different plains of existence and revealing the “truth” to the users at great cost. Something Philip felt on his own skin.
I think that by now you have either identified with this or you found this whole thing too abstract, so depending on your findings, I recommend you this phenomenal movie. If you like things like this, you will love this one. And if you don’t, why don’t expand your horizons with something new and interesting? Finally, if you’re looking for a more straight-up but still quirky drug movie, I recommend Spun. And if you’re looking for a good novel, I recommend William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a classic.