Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

A Scanner Darkly (2006)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

In director/scriptwriter Richard Linklater's visually-incredible, black comedy and sci-fi conspiracy-thriller - adapted from Philip K. Dick's 1991 science-fiction novel - a treatise about drug abuse and the war against it in a future dystopic world - with high-tech surveillance and rampant drug use and addiction (with a drug known as Substance D).

The remarkable aspect of the animated film was that it was shot in computer-rotoscoped style, and it was unusual for its graphic depictions of sex and nudity, first a fantasy view of a waitress (Natasha Valdez) seen topless, and another scene of sexual activity:

  • the film's plotline told about a semi-distant, totalitarian future where 'Big Brother'-styled surveillance ruled, and a brain-deadening super-drug called Substance D had caused many users to become intensely addicted, hallucinatory and paranoid with split personalities; the government had instituted high-tech surveillance on the addicted population and the drug producing and distributing underworld, and hired a number of informants and undercover agents to deal with the invasive problem
  • leading a double life, undercover narcotics cop Agent 'Fred' (Keanu Reeves) (his real name was Bob Arctor) was called upon to reluctantly spy on his friends; he was to report his findings from the underworld to his senior officer-boss 'Hank'; one of his targets was Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder), his cocaine drug-dealing, addicted girlfriend who sold him Substance D; he wanted to learn the identity of her supplier; to complicate matters, as Agent 'Fred', he was also ordered to investigate himself (as Arctor)
  • Agent 'Fred' was equipped with 24/7 holographic surveillance cameras positioned in his own house in Anaheim (Orange County); although he had a vision of living in the house with a wife and two children (from his past), they had abandoned him; as he monitored the tapes of surveillance activity, he wore an identity-blurring, shape-shifting 'scramble suit' to protect himself and his privacy
Agent Fred's (Bob Arctor) Two Druggie Housemates

Housemate Jim Barris (Robert Downey, Jr.)

Housemate Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson)
  • Arctor was now living with two lazy housemates, both drug-users who had problems of their own: Jim Barris (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Luckman (Woody Harrelson); another of Fred's targets was Barris
  • along with his drugged-up roommates using their drug of choice - the deadly Substance D, Arctor was slowly losing his identity, burning out, becoming paranoid, having cognitive brain issues, and acting psychotic and crazy because of his own addictive drug use in his undercover position
  • he was also having problems with his coke-addicted girlfriend Donna who refused his overtures for sex and physical contact with him because of her own excessive coke use; Donna asserted: "Look, I do a lot of coke. OK. And I just have to be really careful because I do a lot of coke, so just leave my body alone. OK?...I just don't like it when people grope my body and I have to watch out for that because I snort so much coke"; instead, Bob had sex with Connie (Lisa Marie Newmyer)
Computer Rotoscoped Fantasy Sex
  • as he rolled over in bed after having sex with Connie, he momentarily freaked out when he imagined not Connie, but Donna next to him; later, as he scanned the footage of the sexual encounter on his six surveillance screens, it showed him (in the top three screens) having sex in multiple positions in fast-motion
  • Bob's druggie pal and housemate Jim Barris ratted on him to Bob's boss 'Hank', who was soon revealed, when removing his scramble suit, to be Donna; she was part of a plan to have Arctor become addicted and then committed to the New Path Recovery Center (at the Santa Ana residence facility), where he would be transferred to a farm to work with plants (including a blue flower used to manufacture Substance D); he was to undergo tests, live in a cell marked 4-G, and assume a new name - 'Bruce'
  • in a scene set in a General Burger fast-food restaurant, Donna (now code-named 'Audrey') met with her fellow undercover agent and police officer 'Mike' (Dameon Clarke) (working inside New Path); they discussed how the addicted 'Bruce' ("a burnt-out husk") was being used to infiltrate into the workings of New Path; they could then prove their case, once 'Bruce' was fully hooked and could produce evidence against it, that New Path was manufacturing and distributing the addictive substance ("It matters when we can prove that New Path is the one growing, manufacturing and distributing")
  • Mike further claimed: " ...there's no other way to get in there. I couldn't, and think how long I tried. They got that place locked up tight. They're only gonna let a burnt-out husk like Bruce in. Harmless. You have to be, or they won't take the risk"
  • however, 'Bruce's' addiction was quite a cost to pay for their undercover work to shut down New Path; Donna/'Audrey' was concerned that Bob /'Bruce' had been selected and sacrificed - without his knowledge, to become a drug addict: "Yeah, but to sacrifice someone, a living person, without them ever knowing it. I mean, if he'd understood, if he had volunteered, but he doesn't know and he never did. He didn't volunteer for this"
  • Donna worried that 'Bruce' (former boyfriend Bob Arctor, or Agent Fred) would never recover and regain his former self; she also pondered Arctor's sacrifice that she had caused; she assertively worried: "Look, Mike I gotta get out. I can't do this again. I want it to end...We are colder than they are"
  • Mike espoused 'Bruce's' sacrificial mission to Donna: "I believe God's m.o. is to transmute evil into good and if he's active here, he's doing that now, although our eyes can't perceive it. The whole process is hidden beneath the surface of our reality, and will only be revealed later. And even then, the people of the future, our children's children will never truly know this awful time that we have gone through and the losses we took. Well, maybe some footnote in a minor history book. A brief mention with no list of the fallen"
  • out at the isolated New Path facility as 'Bruce' was working outdoors, he momentarily saw blue flowers ("the flower of the future") hidden and growing in-between rows of corn in the field; he reacted by commenting: "I saw death rising from the earth, from the ground itself in one blue field"; he plucked one sample to take with him to give to his friends (as evidence for the authorities? or as a gift?) - he hid it in his boot to later give to his friends during the next holiday: "A present for my friends at Thanksgiving"
  • the film ended with an epilogue from author Philip K. Dick: "This has been a story about people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. I loved them all. Here is a list, to whom I dedicate my love." It listed fifteen individuals by name (one of whom was Dick himself) who were deceased or suffered brain damage, vascular damage, or psychosis due to drug abuse: "In memoriam. These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The 'enemy' was their mistake in playing. Let them play again, in some other way, and let them be happy"

Drug Agent Fred/Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves)

Boss "Hank" Wearing a Scramble Suit and Revealed to be Donna

Bob's Girlfriend Donna Hawthorne/'Audrey' (Winona Ryder)

Audrey's Fellow Undercover Agent 'Mike' (Dameon Clarke)

'Bruce' Noticing Blue Flowers (Substance D Source) Hidden in the Rows of a Corn Field, After He Infiltrated Into the New Path Recovery Center

'Bruce' Plucking One Substance D Blue Flower From the Corn Field - "A Present For My Friends"


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