A Scanner Darkly

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.

3 responses to “A Scanner Darkly

  1. Awesome movie! I was actually torn between posting this and Linkletter’s other movie, “Waking Life”. Such a good picture and you’re totally right about Reeves. The one movie he’s good in because all he’s required to do is be cold and confused. Pretty much sums up Keanu. This is a perfect film to demonstrate mental health issues in our society. Genius that it be shot and then illustrated. You get to see how these crazed people see the world; always shifting and swirling, like they can’t quite grasp reality. This movie also gives RDJ one of my favorite lines as Harrelson curses him out after his near death experience. “Well you’re a billy goat”.

  2. I agree, this movie is awesome.The paranoia and lack of self identity is perfect and very similar to Manchurian Candidate. The freedom that the illustration style gives you to blend what is real and what isn’t is genius. It leaves the viewer with the same questions that the character is feeling: “was that real? was that suppose to be there?”. One of my favorite scenes is when RDJ slowly turns into an insect. The bobbing and weaving in and out of reality is perfect.

  3. Always enjoyed the duality of Arctor’s character, not to mention the way the movie uses its animation to more creatively explore that sense of paranoia.

    Certainly one of Linklater’s best, an excellent soundtrack, my personal favorite P. K. Dick adaptation (not counting Blade Runner).

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