Entertainment Industry and other works

by Ellen Gillingham

A Scanner Darkly


Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly shows his firsthand experience with drug addiction.  The story shows spiritual experiences, but is also a warning to other drug users.  It shows that drug use is not a disease, but a consequence of choice.  Themes in the novel are popular among science fiction.  For example, the novel shows how reality blurs into fiction, cultural disillusionment, and the government control.


Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly shows the contemporary state of drug surveillance in the 21st century.  He uses digitized rotoscoping animation to make characters look fluid.  They symbolically show the instability of cognitive dissonance and alternative realities.  Overall, the film communicates themes of identity and its relationship with drugs, bodies, and reality.


Linklater faced a challenge in his adaptation of A Scanner Darkly because other adaptations of Philip K. Dick novels have turned out unfaithful.  However, Linklater successfully captures Dick’s depiction of surveillance.  The film’s content is taken directly from the book, but it lacks characters’ interior language.  This is problematic because this is a big part of showing themes about identity.  Linklater also worked hard to capture Dick’s sardonic humor and unique view of religion, which have not been captured well in other adaptations.

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This article analyses the roboscoping  in Linklater’s film as a metaphor, but primarily focuses on how animators were selected and what was important for them to know.


This article by V. Bell illuminates how Philip K. Dick wrote A Scanner Darkly as a commentary of brain psychosis and found motivation in his personal experiences.


This article by Ryder W. Miller praises the film for its messages, but criticizes the lack of clerity concerning Philip K. Dick’s original opinions.

This article is important in understanding the film because it comments on A Scanner Darkly’s “scramble suit.”  Miller notes that the suit is a good depiction of science fiction that carries a deeper message of paranoia’s relationship with drug use.  Miller also looks at the context of the film and novel to show how A Scanner Darkly represents different parts of Philip K. Dick’s life.


To adapt A Scanner Darkly to film, the director Richard Linklater uses the “interpolated rotoscope” animation technique. What are the effects on the viewer of such a technique? Was it an appropriate technique for the film, in terms its themes and story?

Richard Linklater’s use of the “interpolated rotoscope” animation technique in A Scanner Darkly gives the viewer a hypnotic and confusing effect.  This is appropriate for the film in terms of its themes and story because the story is about drug use and themes concern identity.  The dislocating effect that the technique has on the viewers is comparable to hallucinations produced during drug use.  The technique represents the theme of identity because the bodies never form fully.  This is symbolic of how identity is made up of a mixture between reality and fiction.  It accurately shows the effects that drug use has on individuals because the animation is blurry and separated from reality like the life of an addict is.  For example, Bob Arctor and Officer Fred have similarities, but rotoscoping blurs that connection.  This fits into the themes of the story because the characters appear to blend into each other enhancing the sense of confusion for the viewer.  Overall, the technique looks like time and space are disconnected because the bodies appear to be ever flowing and never quite solid thus it enhances themes for the viewer.


“Nothing would ever change. Nothing new could ever be expected. It had to end, and it did. Now in the dark world where I dwell, ugly things and surprising things and sometimes little wonderous things spill out at me constantly and I can count on nothing.”


2 comments on “A Scanner Darkly

  1. citylites66
    June 28, 2012

    First, I would like to compliment on your technique of adding images to your blog which makes it much more interesting to read. Second, I agree with your claim that the interpolated rotoscope effects give a viewer a hypnotic and confusing effect, in which the director attempts to show his viewers how it looks and feels to be on the scramble suits and the drugs. I also concur with your claim that it is appropriate for the film, as I have also made the same assertion in my blog, because it is creative and more effective in portraying the themes of drug dealing and police undercover tracking of the drug companies. Such effects also allow the director to imply the corruption not only in the society, that is plagued by drugs, but also in the government, that fails to use appropriate methods or even effective methods to track down and arrest these drug dealers to put a limit to the drug use in various areas, such as California.

  2. lordbyrne
    July 1, 2012

    I also appreciate the pics. I appreciate just about everything else too! (I see you’ve been playing around with the look of your blog. Good for you). Your argument paragraph is right on. 10/10. JB.

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This entry was posted on June 27, 2012 by in Adaptation, Film.
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