Tropolism Films: A Scanner Darkly and The Lake House


Filmed space typically serves as a backdrop to a character driven narrative. Yet every now and then it becomes a pivotal element that lures us into its grasps---sometimes in the most unlikely of scenarios--and if Keanu is our guide, sit back, drink the Kool-Aid, and slice the Velveeta.

(Some times, we just have to yield and submit. As much as I hate to admit it: there’s just something about a Keanu Reeves movie. His two recent films, A Scanner Darkly and The Lake House proudly exhibit his mastery of an incessant naiveté and bewilderment.)

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A Scanner Darkly places Keanu in a rotoscoped Anaheim-7 years in the future. Rotoscope is the computer aided process that converts live action into animation, in case you are over 25 years old. Free from temporal boundaries, we switch between an idyllic suburban home with a wife and two kids to that same home occupied by Substance D addicts endlessly musing upon what an 18 speed bike really is.


Keanu, an undercover agent, dressed in a continually shifting holographic “scramble suit”, is our guide through this morphing environment. The fluctuation of both the individual and his environment reminds us of the symbiotic relationships between space and those that inhabit it. It is a dynamic and fragile entity, this space/inhabitant relationship, transforming our perceptions based on who we are and where we happen to be in our lives.


While A Scanner Darkly takes a more fluid approach to space and time, The Lake House imposes a distinct separation between the two. Here’s what you need to accept: Keanu, an architect/housing developer, lives in 2004 while Sandra Bullock, a physician, lives in 2006. A wormhole, disguised as a magic mailbox, allows them to correspond between the temporal barriers. …oh, and of course, they fall in love. Once they realize their predicament, they ask “Can this really be happening?”…”Yeah, I guess it is.” (Who else could deliver these lines with such naïve brilliance?)

The Chicago landscape plays a pivotal role in this film, both in defining the characters as well as their relationships to one another. Some of the highlights include Daley Plaza, the Artist's Cafe in Solon Beman's Fine Arts Building, Daniel Burnham's Santa Fe Building, and Adler & Sullivan's Auditorium Building. Lingering montages between 19th century structures and contemporary monoliths gives us a sense of Keanu and Sandra’s uneasy co-existence within parallel timelines-- “so close, yet so far apart”.


Of course, what would a Hollywood film be without an egocentric hero architect? Christopher Plummer plays a modern-day Howard Roark modernist architect at the tail end of his career. Forever immortalized in his role as General Kang in Star Trek VI, he delivers an impassioned speech. He espouses that buildings are more than what we make, but, in fact, “who we are”. It is an heroic moment perhaps rivaled only by Woody Harrelson’s “What does a brick want to be?” diatribe from An Indecent Proposal.

Woody Harrelson plays a spaced out drug addict in A Scanner Darkly. Do you really think this is a coincidence?

Contributed by Saharat Surattanont.


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