By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Independent.
A Scanner Darkly
Fans of Richard Linklater’s Waking Life will recognize that film’s animation style in A Scanner Darkly. Its drawings look almost like live-action actors, because actors actually performed the scenes for a rough cut. A proprietary computer software enables animators to base their work on such pre-recorded footage, but it’s not easy. A Scanner Darkly took a year and a half to animate, so Linklater may not be doing another one for a while.
Scanner Darkly with Richard Linklater
“I can’t really think of a film I’d choose to [make in this style],” he said. “The two that I’ve done I think it tells the story but I don’t think it would work for every story.”
Linklater had been toying with the idea of adapting Philip K. Dick’s novel, but could not figure it out until he started seeing completed footage of Waking Life. “It was Waking Life when I saw the earliest stages of that technique and it sort of triggered something in my brain of the story I’d been thinking about for 20 years, or kind of non story I should say that never worked in my mind as a film. When I saw that, it was like, ‘Okay, that’s works because it’s not real, but it is real.”
The animation creates a sort of pseudo-reality like the users of the film’s Substance D experience during their drug trips. Hopefully, it won’t create a distance from the audience, since all forms of art can connect with people. “You read a graphic novel or anything and you can be moved by art. It doesn’t have to be real.”
The animation also helped Linklater created one of Dick’s enigmatic devices. The scramble suit changes the face of an undercover cop several times per second. During the live-action shoot, Keanu Reeves had to wear a gray suit. “It was kind of slinky material. It was making it very uncomfortable, but that was good for their characters.”
As another character with dual identities, Reeves may be typecast as the split personality actor. Linklater claims the thought never crossed his mind. “I never thought like, if you’re working with someone like, ‘Oh will people think this is.’ I liked The Matrix but I didn’t think [of it]. I guess there’s some duality there, but it’s such a different story.”