I’ll only wind up dead this way, knowing very little, and getting that little fragment wrong too.
When I was in the 7th grade, I once saw this trailer for a movie on tv. Even though it was just that once that I’d seen it, it kinda stuck in my head because of the way it was animated .. back then I kept thinking that the people in the movie looked familiar, & that it must’ve taken a hell of a lot of time to animate them so well [I was half right].
Fast forward 7 years & I somehow came across the movie out of the blue. Not only did I not remember the name of the movie or the actors playing in it, I had no idea about the plot either. I didn’t remember anything about it until I saw the trailer poster of the movie.
One thing I’ve learned about myself in the last few years is that I’m drawn to movies which show pyschosis, drug abuse, reality disorientation & disassociation & just plain spiraling out of control identity crisis. I somehow find it excessively fascinating to see how the mind works & how things can just affect it & in response making it protect us by changing everything about who we perceive to be.
A Scanner Darkly had all that, & more. It was considerably less depressing than Requiem for a Dream since this ended on a note of hope, albeit doubtful.
It was actually based on closely related non-fictional events by the writer in a book of the same name which I want to read now.
The story plunges us into a dystopian near-future where there’s an endemic of substance abuse, more specifically of Substance D. The plot follows Bob Archer [played by Keanu Reeves], who is a covert narc who goes by the alias ‘Fred’ at the government agency he works in where like all of the other covert operationals, he has to wear a scramble suit which constantly changes every aspect of his appearance so that he appears as a vague persona.
Following the cliched ideals of a dystopian future, Bob becomes addicted to Substance D which is supplied by Donna [played by Winona Ryder]. He shares his old family house [he was shown to have a wife & 2 daughters – whether this was true or not is uncertain] with fellow addicts Barris [played by Robert Downey Jr.] & Ernie.
I wont go too deep into the story line, but it ends with Bob/Fred becoming separate personalities due to the prolonged drug use, which he himself is not aware of. The doctors who examined him related his symptoms to be that of ‘brain split’ phenomenon [even though the corpus callosum was not separated] as his less dominant hemisphere was no longer in contact the more dominant one & so were acting independently. I had already studied about the ‘split brain’ phenomenon since I had studied it myself while taking up neuroanatomy so it piqued up my interest.
Anyway, long story short, upon realising that he is Bob & Fred together, he has a mental breakdown where he’s lastly sent to a rehab clinic called ‘New Path’ where he experiences substance withdrawl & further brain damage. He is then sent to a farm by ‘New Path’ after he shows no improvement & it all comes together: New Path is responsible for farming the opium from which Substance D is made due to the high demand in society & the government chose Bob without his knowledge to be addicted to drugs & develop enough brain damage that he would be sent to the farm guised as for farming corn crops.
In the last scene, they show Bob watering the corn crops [with the blue opium flowers growing on the ground] where he says, “I saw death rising from the Earth, from the ground, in one blue field”, & the picks up the flower & hides it to show to his ‘friends’ [who are actually covert narcs] back at the rehab center. The film thus ends on a hopeful not though we never find out whether he truly makes it back to the rehab as promised, or if his mind is functional enough to bring back the proof he saw/saved. I like to think he does retain some thinking power because like his last line, he linked the the blue opium field to death, which was what the ‘D’ in substance D stood for.