A Scanner Darkly (2006)
1. Analysis of the Book. A Scanner Darkly is a science fiction novel written in 1977 by Philip K. Dick. The book is set in Orange County, California (the Los Angeles area) in a futuristic alternate 1994, and follows the drug addled decay of Bob Arctor aka Fred, a narcotics officer hot on the trail of an investigation of himself. (The narcotics officers in this alternate future maintain a hidden personal identity) The plot is further complicated by the fact that he is unknowingly being forced to spy on a rehabilitation clinic, “New Path”, which is the source of the drug “Substance D”. In the course of his investigation Arctor becomes an addict to Substance D. The story is a journey into the drug addicted lives of Arctor and his acquaintances. It parallels the life and experiences of its author.
2. Analysis of the Film. The film is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s book of the same name. It was released in 2006. The adaptation was done by the Richard Linklater. His interpretation of the film used an animation technique called rotoscoping. The technique is a hybrid a cartoon animation and film. It is very useful in conveying certain aspects of the film, such as the scramble suit worn by the narcotics officers, because of animations ability to successfully recreate the special effects described in the novel. Another example was the opening scene with the aphids. It would have been very complicated or even impossible to create that scene with special effects. Additionally, the rotoscoping use of color was mesmerizing and added a unique quality to the film.
3. Analysis of the Adaptation. The adaptation is considered a relatively faithful interpretation by most critics. This is not surprising since the two share certain key similarities. Both are somewhat anti-authoritarian, and it is well reflected in the film. Linklater was previously known for his film Slackers which is similarly critical of society in its own way. Likewise, Linklater did not miss including Dick’s own anti-authoritarian critic of our own modern day kind of Orwellian police state. It’s like slackers of the future.
4. Online Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to A Scanner Darkly include:
http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/frank-views-archive/encounters-with-reality-p-k-dicks-a-scanner-darkly This site performs a breakdown of elements of the book. Additionally, it puts particular emphasis on the main characters struggle with reality. Actually, it looks at the novels attempt to philosophize the interpretation of reality.
http://www.avclub.com/articles/a-scanner-darkly-philip-k-dicks-thematic-obsession,42528 The link is a book club analysis of the novel which provides a number of powerful insights of which I was previously unaware.
http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10296 A great site that asks, “Is the real world ready for a Real Philip Dick Movie?”
5. Critical Analysis.
Is A Scanner Darkly an anti-drug parable, an anti-government parable, or both? What is the relationship between drug use and politics in the film?
A Scanner Darkly is both an anti-drug parable and an anti-government parable. It incorporates elements of both. The anti-drug parable is a reflection of the experiences of Philip Dick who used his own life as a model for the creation of the novel. It incorporates many elements of his own negative experiences with drugs and the drug culture, and follows the mental decay, paranoia, hallucination and ensuing difficulties of several characters in the film. It culminates with a mournful tribute to all his friends who have been lost to drugs. The anti-government aspect of the film is well represented, not only by Dick, but by Linklater’s own interpretation of the novel. As mentioned previously, both are somewhat anti-authoritarian, and it is well reflected in the film. It is a descending spiral of one person spying the other. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Barris is spying on Archer, and Archer is spying on Barris and himself, and Donna is spying on them all, but no one knows that Donna is actually an agent. All the while, Arctor is actually being used to spy on New Path. It is a critical look at an authoritarian police state.