Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Review - A Scanner Darkly

Philip K Dick was a man who knew his dystopias - Blade Runner being possibly the definitive movie dystopia.

A Scanner Darkly is nothing like Blade Runner. For one thing the rotoscoped animation gives the film a uniquely twisted look, which allows for surreal moments befitting the subject matter; for another, it’s a far more personal dystopia, one where America has lost the war on drugs and the obligatory police state is dedicated to tracking down those behind Substance D. More importantly, Scanner is apparently more faithful to the novel than some film adaptations, as befits what was, a semi-autobiographical story. (I can’t comment directly on this myself, because it is an unwritten rule that I cannot watch a PKD adaptation if I’ve read the book, and vice versa.)

Although it starts out sounding like just another stoner movie - the comedic antics of three strung out housemates, one of whom is completely failing to have sex with his girlfriend – it soon develops into a serious look at the effects of addiction, notably on Bob Arctor, an undercover agent who got hooked on Substance D while trying to infitrate the supply chain, and his understandably paranoid flatmates.

Paranoia is followed by schizophrenia and ultimately extreme withdrawal - and then the plot starts getting really twisty.

This is definitely one to watch, although it’s been around a while, so if you haven’t already, you really should. Unless, that is, you really don’t like films with a smattering of sex and a lot of naughty words. And all the drugs, of course. Or if you don’t like films with humour, sadness, philosophy, great visuals, and commentary on the issues facing the world today.


fredösphere said...

PK Dick finally got lucky with adaptations of A Scanner Darkly, first this rotoscoped film which you correctly praise, and then with the audiobook version which is performed (notice I don't say merely "read") by Paul Giamatti. Thanks to Mr. Giamatti, I finally got what the big deal was with PKD. Anyone with the slightest interst in PDK simply must get the movie and the audiobook. Wonderful stuff.

Matthew Celestine said...

So even in the future worlds of sci-fi, governments will still be under the misguided notion that they can stop people using drugs through law enforcement?

UKSteve said...

Well, it would hardly be realistic to portray governments as anything but misguided, would it?