A Scanner Darkly
d. Richard Linklater / 2006 / USA / 100 mins
Viewed at: The Box @ FACT (Liverpool, UK)
I’m still a little bit behind here, so after a brief four week stint working with the wonderful ladies and gentlemen at Metrodome Distribution, its back to the grind and back to playing catchup.
Way back when – right towards the end of David Sorfa’s excellent Film and Philosophy course at FACT Liverpool – we were treated to Richard Linklater’s excellent, and underrated adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Leaving aside the obvious jokes about this being Keanu Reeves’ most ‘animated’ performance – and at the expense of sounding like a Sunday supplement reviewer – there is “much to like here”. Oh yes.
Linklater tackles Dick’s circular logic and philosophical mind games with his usual freewheeling abandon, and turns in a pretty enjoyable film that still manages to leave you questioning anything and everything (as any halfway decent Dick adaptation should!)
A Scanner Darkly (the film) is a kind of confectioned meditation on the hollowness of existence, exploring addiction, happiness and everything in between. It wanders the boundaries between knowing and unknowing, living and unliving, reality and unreality – largely via its examination of a solipsistic idea that we can never really be sure of anything that exists outside our own minds.
Unlike a more overtly ‘philosophical’ film like The Matrix – which mangles these ideas into a rather extreme, yet strangely logical conclusion (in the first film, at least) – A Scanner Darkly merely suggests at the philosophical possibilities in the kind of subtle manner that only Philip K. Dick seems able to muster. It’s not a perfect film, sure, but Linklater and co. manage to serve up these subtle philosophical ideas – heaped with paranoia and desperation – wrapping them in a simple, entertaining and undemanding package.
And besides, who wouldn’t want one of those Scramble Suits?