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On ‘A Scanner Darkly’ by Philip K. Dick


WARNING: Some elements of this post are NSFW, as also the suggestive themes and premise of this book and movie. The movie is Rated R for drug and sexual content, language and a brief violent image.

S.D. presents a quick dive into the book and film, A Scanner Darkly.

I must not have been as big of a fanatic I thought I was about the story A Scanner Darkly, because I just learned that the movie was first a book by Philip K. Dick.

NSFW Video clip of the movie A Scanner Darkly. I am not the creator of this video.

The Book:

1984 cover of A Scanner Darkly, source

A Scanner Darkly borrows from real life events of Philip K. Dick’s life when he lived in San Rafael, CA, in the early seventies, a low point in his life, where he was involved with drugs and drug users. The book was made into a movie by Richard Linklater.

From Philip K. Dick’s book page for A Scanner Darkly

Well, that doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what the story is about, but it does tell us some useful information. Let’s try again, so we can get a better idea.

“Dick is Thoreau plus the death of the American dream.”—Roberto Bolaño

Bob Arctor is a junkie and a drug dealer, both using and selling the mind-altering Substance D. Fred is a law enforcement agent, tasked with bringing Bob down. It sounds like a standard case. The only problem is that Bob and Fred are the same person. Substance D doesn’t just alter the mind, it splits it in two, and neither side knows what the other is doing or that it even exists. Now, both sides are growing increasingly paranoid as Bob tries to evade Fred while Fred tries to evade his suspicious bosses.

In this award-winning novel, friends can become enemies, good trips can turn terrifying, and cops and criminals are two sides of the same coin. Dick is at turns caustically funny and somberly contemplative, fashioning a novel that is as unnerving as it is enthralling.

Extracted from Amazon.

The Movie:

One of the A Scanner Darkly movie posters. Source,

I have watched this movie several times and remember it vividly, which says a lot for me and a movie, in both respects. The film is delivered to our eyes in the style of cel shaded ( some people refer to it as vector art, but that is technically incorrect as an end product ), rotoscoped animation which is a marvel on it’s own, directed by Richard Linklater. There is even some meta-rotoscoping in the presentation of the detective suit and the rotoscoping of people watching other people, much like the rotoscope artists watch the cast while they rotoscope ( outlined in the video below ). I am sure there are a lot of behind-the-scenes facts about this movie, but this is beyond the scope of this post. Get it? Ha, ha.

A Video about Rotoscoping in A Scanner Darkly. I am not the creator of this video.

The Movie Cast:

Wow, Alex Jones?! Geezus.

I hope enjoyed this quick dive into the story of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick. I hope to bring you more insight into this story at a later time, wink wink.

  • Does it surprise you that such big name actors play in this relatively low budget film?
  • Have you seen the movie? If so, what is your favorite scene?
  • Have you read the book?
  • Do you know any interesting facts about this movie or book?
  • If you have read the movie or the book, do you believe this story serves as a warning message or does it condone unfavorable behavior?

Guys, until next time – may you find all the happiness that your life can fit in it’s happy spot – S.D. McKinley

By S.D. McKinley

S.D. McKinley lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. He was born in the first half of the 1980's and grew up in Wisconsin as a young boy, then moved to Georgia when he turned exactly twelve years old. During teenage years, he raced dirt track go karts and played guitar. He discovered his current love for all kinds of art after his mid-life crisis at 25 years old. S.D. McKinley began writing books in 2017.

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