A week after watching A Scanner Darkly, you still wonder if you missed something. It’s not that the story doesn’t ultimately come together (it really does) but that it just feels so different from other sci-fi movies. Where many have losers of one sort or another, we’re never left to dwell in it, what for all the high tech gagetry and underground hipster discos. Here, we really are asked to put down on a bongwater drenched couch with a bunch of semi-delusional future slackers and soak it up.
What’s interesting, though, is the way that Linklater uses the much discussed rotoscoping to add a future surreal feeling to this barrel bottom world. The technique takes a back seat to story here (unlike Waking Life) but it does keep things just off-kilter enough to leave you feeling part of a dream and asking yourself if you just saw what you think you saw. It’s…interesting.
And that’s what really seems to divide folks on the movie. Do you call bullshit and at the sight of cell shaded losers sitting in a crappy diner spewing freaked out conspiracy theories or do you go with it? Do you get angry when the unkempt state of a character’s mind is reflected in slight jitters in the stock of a wine shop? Does it piss you off when the surreal and mundane mix as if part of some science experiment gone ever so slightly wrong?
It’s the sort of movie where you spend half the time wondering if the director has any clue what his point is and the other half thinking he’s brilliant. But that’s Linklater for you. And, as Randy Shulman puts it, “A Scanner Darkly finds Linklater in experimental mode, which is a far, far better place for him to be than in a little league dugout.” Amen. Can’t wait for the next beautifully flawed dose.