Sunday, 21 November 2010

Book / Movie comparison: A Scanner Darkly (Philip K. Dick blogathon)

A Scanner Darkly is the most accurate film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story that I have seen so far. Many of the scenes have seemingly been copied straight from the book. However, in creating a more faithful adaptation, director Richard Linklater has distanced his film from mainstream audiences. Unlike other directors who have transformed Dick’s works into movies, like Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and Steven Spielberg (Minority Report), who modified his stories to fit their personal vision, created their own worlds and made his material more accessible to a wider audience, Linklater hasn’t altered the story at all.

“Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, and very often, in fact almost perpetually, he deliberately deceives himself about that little precious fragment as well. A portion of him turns against him and acts like another person, defeating him from inside. A man inside a man. Which is no man at all.” (Page 147).

There are a number of extra moments in the book, which the film obviously didn’t have enough time to add in. Barris researches mushrooms and tries to sell some as hallucinogens, which may be fatally toxic. During the road trip, Arctor pays a visit to Kimberley Hawkins, an individual he hasn’t seen in a while, to check up on her. These aren’t in the film but aren’t vitally important and have no real bearing on the story.

An interesting device used in the novel is interspersing events with other unrelated facts, dialogue or moments from the past. When Fred meets with the two medical deputies, the dialogue is combined with memories they remind him of and medical articles about the mind. This shows the muddled up nature of his brain, affected by drug use and paranoia. There are also moments in the book when the text is interspersed with lines of German that aren’t explained and seem completely random. When Fred views some of these moments back on one of the Holo-Scanners he uses for surveillance on his house, he hears Arctor reciting, partly in German. This is a very remarkable method used by the author. At first it is quite baffling, as we witness events from Arctor’s point of view and there is no explanation for the lines of German that seem totally out of place. Then when we are with Fred viewing the events back, we realise what they signified. It represents how strange and incomprehensible things are, the mindset of the characters, and why we can’t even believe that what we are reading is what truly happened. It makes reading A Scanner Darkly a very interesting and unique experience.

The fact that it is very successful as an adaptation seems to have caused it to be unsuccessful in terms of attracting a large audience. This suggests that Philip K. Dick’s works are not readily welcomed by mainstream viewers in their pure, undiluted form.


  1. Hey Emma,

    O.K. So I ramble. I tried this in one part but the system said no way. So here is part one.

    Hey Emma,

    Making the LAMb rounds, realizing there are now nearly 1K of said LAMb-das I decided to throw a few darts, collect some targets and start in no particular order which ended up being pretty close to the bottom and for lack of a better metaphhor, stumbled upon your doorstep. This is my second attempt at leaving you a note. The first one went the way of the dinosaur. I don't know. Happened twice today. I never even saw the meteor.

    That being said and absolutely nothing being equal, I'm a big fan of P.K. Dick. His source material for one of my all time favorite films, Bladerunner is pretty untouchable as far as literary tombs go, different animals of course but nevertheless extraordinary. If I were going to be stuck on an island somewhere out in the middle of the ocean and said island had an electrical outlet, well a couple, I'd have a nice easy chair and one of those giant awnings that retract (I'm sure the stars would be pretty amazing out there) with a big t.v., er, LCD or whatever they are called these days, a DVD player, Bladerunner, a handful of other top pick flicks, and a stack of dog-eared P.K. Dick books to pass the time. Add in one beverage type plug-in cooler with drinks and snacks kinda like the 'god' mode on first person shooter games where they don't run out and I'd be right on my way to one helluva retreat. Or excursion. Maybe both.

  2. Part 2

    But I digress. All that to say I found your site and please feel like doing me a solid and returning the favor and dropping over to my current place of ramble-on-e-nous and drop me a note. I guess that is the way of the blog-o-what-have-you but some recipricate any varying ways like not saying hello at all to which I pishaw, wtf?

    Great points about P.K. and his adaptations. You're right that Link was the most fervent supporter of a direct translation which is likely the reason it didn't find an audience. P.K is like, oh i don't know, a good glass of scotch. You can take pictures of it, video even, maybe figure out a way to make one of those scratch and sniff patch thingies, but the end result is nothing is as good as the real dealio. That's my quarter and a nickle worth of opinion. I am probably one of only a handful who actually liked Minority Report (not making comparisons or relations to the novel, just STeve's adaptation) and as I mentioned, Bladerunner is a fav.

    Loved your quote choice, pg 147. A man inside a man which is no man at all. Or, two men tugging at one anothers gut strands which given I just watched the Nightmare on Elmstreet collectors edition for Halloween, reminds me oddly of one of the flicks where Freddy kinda tore himself apart from the inside out.

    Anyway, great reading - looking forward to checking the site out. I've added you to the feed reader so I can catch your next pithy pith.
    above the line:practical movie reviews


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