A Scanner Darkly
Well, I finally saw Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. I haven't read the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name (and there be spoilers connected to this link) it is based on, but my friend Gavin seems to think that it was fairly faithfully followed. I liked it quite a bit and find it sad that it didn't seem to open to a wider release. I know some of you out there are avoiding it because you aren't into Keanu Reeves or Winona Ryder - don't. I'm not particular fans of either actor, but they do a fine job in this film.
Actually, although he plays the main character, Reeves' Bob Arctor/Fred is almost a background part. The action centres around Arctor/Fred, but he seems much more of a passive participant: he's an observor who functions kind of like Willey Wiggins' character in Linklater's other rotoscoped classic, Waking Life.
Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson play addicts and have received a lot of praise for their performances, they should as they are very good in the film. Downey is a particular stand out as the treacherous, unstable Barris. I swear Barris' mannerisms are nearly identical to the mannerisms and vocal inflections of a friend of mine. Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused's über-stoner, Ron Slater) is also a stand out as the tweaker, Fleck.
The film is just as relevant today as the novel was when it was written back in 1977. The death drug of the film and the novel is called Substance D. (slow death) Dick was intimately aquainted with California's drug scene, having been an addict himself. I couldn't help but think of my friend's little brother, a meth addict, or the people I used to have to deal with in Burnaby. Addiction is the death of the soul, sucide by inches drawn out over a span of months, years or decades.
Wikipedia writes: "Philip K. Dick also gives the name of the species of the flower, which helps to show the relevant meaning of the story and the nature of both the drug and the character's struggle. The name is Mors ontologica, which could roughly be translated to "the death of knowledge of existence." However, it should be translated as "ontological death", or, "death is being itself"." Also, "This is further explained in the moving afterword, where Dick dedicates the book to those of his friends—he includes himself—who suffered debilitation or death as a result of their drug use. Mirroring the epilogue are the involuntary goodbyes that occur throughout the story--the constant turnover and burn-out of young people that lived with Dick during those years.
In the afterword, he states that the novel is about “some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did” and that “drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to move out in front of a moving car.” "
At any rate, if you have the chance to see the film then do so.