Review by Amanda Pampuro



Yet another adaptation from the accidental father of modern sci-fi, Philip Freaking Dick, A Scanner Darkly modernizes the tail, while folding in some of the novel’s more beautiful passages.

For my 16th or 17th birthday, my brother gave me A Scanner Darkly on DVD and Being and Nothingness in paperback. For at least a year, I lugged that book around, and crawled through the first hundred pages, before I put it down. To compensate, I watched the cartoon with Keanu Reeves four or five times, trying to figure out what my brother was trying to tell me. At the time, my favorite scene was the intermission in which Freck kills himself on fine wine and sleeping pills, only to be kept awake for eternity, and read his sins by a many-eyed beast, for its sudden shift in tone.

In a highly-surveyed society, where “scanners” watch everything from traffic cameras to live-phone calls, a cop nicknamed Fred investigates the drug circle around substance “D.” Despite the lack of privacy, life in Anaheim seems to carry on status quo, with people either not knowing or not caring about the monitoring. As Fred’s undercover alter-ego, Bob Arctor becomes more comfortable in his circle, and increases his use of D, the man begins to lose which self is himself—is he a cop masquerading as a druggie, or a druggie who acts like a cop?

Set “seven years in the future,” A Scanner Darkly takes place in the always-future, but from its release in 2006, seven years puts it in today’s present and boy, did this movie make some crazy predictions. A society where houses are bugged more than the Real World flats and more phone calls are put through the strainer than pasta? Weird.
I say it often and I will post it online: what happens to Snowden is very important. It will be indicative of the kind of world we live in, and what kind of heroes we need.scanner2

The surveillance in A Scanner Darkly is so heavy, that the only way to predict the identity of its undercover police force is to put them undercover in the police station, and have their “true” identity be the one on the street. To ensure that police are unrecognizable to other law enforcement, they done scramble suits—suits comprised of 1.5 million fragments of people, which shifts constantly, making police look like “vague, shifting blurs.” This ensures that only the scanners can hide.

While A Scanner Darkly was filmed normally, it was digitally animated afterwards, using interpolated rotoscoping, giving it a surreal liquid-like fluidity. The king of dialogue, Richard Linklator, who captured Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight, is also responsible for this Scanner Darkly. Here, Linklator expands and matures Dazed and Confused’s young druggies into older people with more problems and speech that is both natural and unexpected.

This is a fantastic exposition on the institutions that claim to help, and follows people balancing on the curb between drug use and abuse. That and Phillip K. Dick is officially on the shortlist of people I would cryo-preserve for the 31st century.

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