Last night I snuck into a preview of A Scanner Darkly with my good friend Scott Hallgren. Scott is the master of the manor at Scootman Music. He is toying with the idea of writing your own personal theme music. Wouldn’t it be cool to pull out your own personal theme song on a date? If I had my own personal theme song I’d know what Shaft felt like. Damn right! Shut your mouth, I’m just talking about ….
Oh A Scanner Darkly. Originally written as a novel in 1977 by Phillip K Dick, Scanner explores drug addiction, conspiracy theory, eroding civil freedoms, and big business corruption. Dick was quite the paranoid addict himself. After a bad trip on sodium pentothal in the dentist’s chair in 1974, Dick began to have visions and paranoid episodes. Dick had always thought he had some type of mental illness, possibly schizophrenia. It seems that if he wasn’t ill before the 1974 episode, the Pentothal trip turned into the trigger for his full blow psychosis.
Dick began to envision the FBI and KGB plotting against him. Letters were written to both agencies about their harassment and mistreatment of Dick. The Soviet Government got a few letters beseeching them to stop using Dick in their mind control experiments. Visions of a past life as a 1st century Christian named Thomas began to crop up. As well as a home break in that Dick attributed to the FBI wishing to steal documents from him.
A Scanner Darkly echoes Dick’s own struggles with addiction and paranoia. The film centers on undercover cop Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) descent into the drug culture as a part of his job. Bob’s lines of fantasy and reality become so blurred, through the drug use, he starts to develop his own psychosis. Without giving too much of the plot away, there are the twists and turns one would expect out of a tale of a whacked out dope fiend.
There is a ring of honesty about the film. I came away thinking I had glimpsed into what it must be strung out all the time. The rotoscope animation only compounds the feeling of addiction’s half step out of sync with a "real" point of view. (The amimation was not too far off the XBOX game XIII ) The disorientation was achieved as an overall backdrop, rather than stark visual blows seen in Naked Lunch or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The overall appeal of the post 9-11, conspiracy in every pot society will cheer Scanner. Yes there are other forces at work on Keanu, yes the police state is out of control and big business is corrupt in this film. Yes the folks that think Bush lied and Osama Bin Laden is a lamb will think this film is just what the doctor ordered to wake everyone up. Of course they’re wrong. The great thing about delving into the world of conspiracy and government manipulation is that no one ever knows who is being played and for what reason. Maybe the conspiracy is to make the masses think there is a conspiracy. Go see the movie, and make up your own mind while I try to fashion an aluminum foil hat for my own protection against the bisexual CIA cowboy that works for Michael Moore.