Sometimes a really disturbing movie comes along. A Scanner Darkly is one of those movies. What’s particular disturbing about the movie, is that it’s traced and coloured by hand. A team of creative people have put approximately 600 man hours of work in every single minute of this movie, to make it look like an animated Marvel Comic.
So what do I think? Well, I have mixed feelings about it. I want to be carefull here. First of all, the experience the movie offers is very special. As odd as the story is, the movie looks. Good movie, bravo.
But then when in the ‘making of’ I actually saw how it was made, it gave me the creeps. Was it really worth all this work? Each and every single frame is really beautiful and the whole movie can be turned into a Marvel-like comic book very easily. But I cannot escape the simple fact that the moving result looks like it’s been processed with an After Effects filter.
Even when you’re familiar with the techniques involved, like myself, you do not directly see that it’s hand drawn. The movement of the hair and the different shades of specular in the faces of the characters are dancing around constantly in an unnatural and I presume unintented way, although they must’ve simply accepted it at some point in the production of the movie.
This ‘dancing of the lines’ has two effects:
1) It makes you feel like you’re inside the trip of the main character, it helps make the movie feel like a drug-trip
2) It makes it hard to watch, because your eyes are not really given fixed points of reference, other than the backgrounds.
Overall I’d say you really should go see it. It’s a daring experiment, and I’d say a successfull one. One question that keeps running through my mind though in respect to this movie is one: how did the team stay motivated? How is it possible for a creative person to be tracing Keanu Reeve’s face for one and and a half a year without breaking down in tears and suicidal thoughts?
OK, now forget everything I’ve said, and go enjoy it with a blank mind.
Also, check out an HD trailer of A Scanner Darkly.