A Scanner Darkly

Posted on May 2, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

This weeks ritual chips and movie night took place a bit earlier than usual, giving me time to blog with the film fresh in mind.  The movie in question: A Scanner Darkly.

Not quite underground enough to be called a cult movie, yet not mainstream enough to be well known, its a film I’ve wanted to see since it came out (in ’06) but never actually got around to.  A trip to the HMV sale with 1/3 of our saturday night audience rectified that.

ArctorA Scanner Darkly is a brilliantly surreal movie, made all the more striking by the visual effects which overwrite live action performances with graphic novel style animation.  Not only does this contribute to the dreamlike feel of the movie, it also allows for artistic scope that would be difficult to put across in a less cartoon-y approach.  The switches between hallucinations, fantasies and reality are particularly effective, especially in the opening scene.

Paranoia is the theme of this movie, captured by a well rounded cast including Robert Downey Jr, Keanu ReevFreckes and Winona Ryder.  Rory Cochrane is particularly good as the twitchy Freck, as is Downey Jr in a  fast talking/dark humour role he’s not unfamiliar with but very good at.  Even Reeves, not renound for his Oscar worthy talent, performs well in this movie, but like Downey Jr, he’s also playing a role we’re very used to seeing him in.

The film is long, and at times it drags, but in a way this adds to the meandering and bewildering tone of the movie, reflecting the lives of the protagonists whose shifts between aimless banter and sudden fear are very well written and performed.  The twist(s) is (are)  not so much shocking as confusing and do seem to come all at once in a sudden dash for action, but the ending is good with the final redemption of Arctor and it all becomes clear when you take a step back and put all the clues together .  The beginning and end are also the only two incidences of (obvious) music in the film, the rest of the action carried out mostly in silence, giving a background of realism to the surrealist storyline.


A Scanner Darkly reminded me a lot of  Trainspotting, as a gritty depiction of drug abuse and addiction told in a fantastical way, and I think it stands up well in comparison.  The realism of the film really comes home with author Philip K. Dick ‘s list of dedications which roll before the credits, bringing you out of the distopic “not too distant future” straight back into the real world.

A definite recommend, just detach from reality before you start.

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One Response to “A Scanner Darkly”

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Linklater never pretends that he has all the answers, but he asks the questions in such an interesting, elegant fashion that you’ll be glad you came along for the ride. Nice stuff you got here, check out my review when you can!

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