(Through) A Scanner Darkly

I had written previously about how 2006 was a year with a lot of great movies.

Yet, since I was going by what came to mind then, there was one important omission: “A Scanner Darkly

If you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t believe it starred each of:

  • Keanu Reeves (a long way from Bill and Ted, shortly after the Matrix trilogy, and before John Wick)
  • Winona Ryder (for me, she will always be Lelaina from Reality Bites, 27 years ago now, and under-appreciated until her recent role in Stranger Things)
  • Woody Harrelson (old-timer familiar to younger audiences from Hunger Games and No Country for Old Men)
  • Robert Downey Jr (right before he entered the Marvel-verse as Iron Man, became Sherlock Holmes)

I would say that the movie was “prescient” given its portrayal of surveillance, drug addiction, all themes in the world today, but then I’d have to say that the book was even more prescient.

The style of the movie is animated-but-not-animated, using “digital rotoscope”, which combines the live-action is “painted over”, which creates an impression of … well, you’d have to watch it.

The movie is based on a a Philip K. Dick book of the same name, from 1977.

From the Kirkus Review for the book:

Much of the straightforward narration is theatrically bad, yet dialogue and internal monologue carry a cruel (and cruelly funny) conviction. And the larger plot is brilliantly hinged upon a consciousness split by two insanities: the Kafkaesque charade of secret self-surveillance and the terrible advance of irreversible brain damage. Flawed, almost too grim to take, but stunningly realized.

Yes — no doubt you’ve seen a lot of surveillance in movies, by now, though I’d guess you haven’t encountered self-surveillance.

From the Guardian Review:

It has the feel of the apocalypse about it, a sense of these being the last days

At the nadir of his despair and double-agent confusion, he wonders whether the agencies spying on him through their scanners have a clearer idea of who he is than he has himself. He has surrendered himself so totally to the service of the state that the authorities now have a godlike insight into him: godlike in its power, that is, but with a very human malice and caprice.


Minor trivia:

  • Something I learnt today: the audiobook for this is narrated by … Paul Giamatti !!
  • There are other Philip K. Dick novels made into movies,

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