A Scanner Darkly: Or is it Oddly?

2 Jul

The Book

The characters are all very abrasive and bitter, frequently swearing with very biting tones. The drugs drive them closer to utter insanity. These characters are all very disconnected and frustrated with the situation, snapping at everyone who talks to them.

The Film

This was a non-traditional film; considering its cartoon format, the characters displayed a surprising degree of depth and interest. Perhaps, the most enigmatic character was portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. who shone in his role as an unfeeling drug-dealer. Keanu Reeves suited the role as a double agent although seemed lacking to some degree. Winona Ryder shone as both herself and Keanu’s one night stand.

The Adaptation

This is nearly a direct translation of the book –  of course, without the combination of characters. This is the joy of the cartoon format – the book can jump onto the screen even without the difficulty the CGI or staging that would be required. All characters seemed true to their abrasive form, especially Ernie and James as the relaxed friend and psychopath respectively. Keanu Reeves did well in the main role, although was somewhat unexpected considering the original novel.

The Critics

Kosub was hesitant about applauding this film feeling that it was too superficial and even “a disappointment as a film about drug addiction and paranoia” (Kosun, 2006). He also criticized the film’s theme of paranoia as unrealistic. Although, he did appreciate the love story between Bob and Donna, referring it to as a “remarkable, unheralded love story, buried in a brief and unfulfilled relationship, played out in loss and sadness” (Kosub, 2006)..

Bright Lights Film Journal’s Kutner praised the film’s actors as “ creative and engaging. And funny. “

Crawford was dismayed that this movie would be unappreciated by fans despite the depth of the story and its screen portrayal.

The Critical Argument

In “A Scanner Darkly”, the line between reality and delusion becomes blurred for both the audience and the characters – perhaps, because reality is more of what people believe than what is actually true. This post-modern vision dominates this film “in which drugs predominate and reality tends to be a big question mark” (Dargis, 2006). in fact, the film’s emphasis on the brain’s two competing parts gives it a further “paradoxical identity” (Romney, 2006). This is illustrated well in the main character, Arctor, is a challenging character to define given his propensity to allow himself to be seen as “an empty page who lets other people define his identity, and doesn’t seem to have much personality of his own” (Robinson, A.V. Club Staff, 2006). At the end of the film, audiences are left wondering what is real and what is imagined in this film  which is its ultimate brilliance.

Works Cited

A. V. Club Staff, . “A Scanner Darkly: thoughts on the film adaptation and the unfilmable.” Books. A. V. Club, 1 July 2010. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.avclub.com/article/ia-scanner-darklyi-thoughts-on-the-film-adaptation-42521

Crawford, James. A Scanner Darkly. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 28 July 2006. Web. 15 May 2015.http://reverseshot.org/reviews/entry/477/reverse_shot_scanner_darkly

Dargis, Manohla. “A Scanner Darkly Review.” Movies. New York Times, 7 July 2006. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/07/movies/07scan.html?_r=0

Dick, Philip K. A Scanner Darkly. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1977. Kindle Edition.

Glenn, Joshua. “Watching the Detectives: A Review of Scanner Darkly.” Summer Movies. Slate Magazine, 27 June 2006. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/summer_movies/2006/06/watching_the_detectives.html

Kosub, Nathan. Clearly, Clearly, Dark-Eyed Donna: Time and A Scanner Darkly. Sense of Cinema, Nov. 2006. Web. 15 May 2015.http://sensesofcinema.com/2006/feature-articles/scanner-darkly/

Kutner, Jerry. A SCANNER DARKLY – Linklater Gets PKD Right. Bright Lights Film Journal, 13 July 2013. Web. 15 May 2015. http://brightlightsfilm.com/a-scanner-darkly-linklater-gets-pkd-right/#.VVZ0DPlViko

Linklater, Richard, Palmer West, Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey, Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, Winona Ryder, Shane F. Kelly, Graham Reynolds, and Philip K. Dick. A Scanner Darkly. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2006.

Romney, Jonathan. “A Scanner Darkly Review.” Reviews. The Independent, 20 Aug. 2006. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/a-scanner-darkly-15-412670.html

Russell, Mike. “THE CULTUREPULP Q&A: RICHARD LINKLATER.” Culturepulp. whoa is (not) me , 1 July 2006. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.whoaisnotme.net/articles/2006_0701_cul.htm


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