For those who have not seen it, A Scanner Darkly is Richard Linklater’s adaptation of the similarly-titled Philip K. Dick novel, which is set “7 years from now,” after America’s war on drugs has failed and 20% of the country is now addicted to the brain-damaging drug “Substance D.” Keanu Reeves (I know, I know, but he’s really good in this movie) stars as Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics agent who has, in living with and working through other addicts, become addicted to Substance D himself. In the hysteria and addiction-induced paranoia, the government has set up an intricate system of tracking, scanning, monitoring every aspect of civilian life, and even the officers’ identities must remain hidden from each other. When Bob is given orders to set up scanners in his undercover house and monitor himself, he must try to straddle the line of narc and junkie, still trying to find large Substance D sources without attracting too much attention on the scanners – a task which proves increasingly difficult as his cognitive abilities become more and more impaired by his drug use.
There is way too much I have to say about this movie, but I feel like this scene, which comes towards the end of the film, cuts to the heart of it in an emotionally pivotal monologue showing the mental burden of his dual life. Bob has moved past the point of wondering how much damage Substance D could be doing to him, into a place where obvious hallucination and terrible confusion leaves him blindly pouring over his fears, frustrations, and the intentions he’s supposedly had.