I guess there isn't going to be a 100% proven answer, so I'm more interested in what possibility is most likely. In the answer on A Scanner Darkly's IMDB page to the question of whom Arctor slept with, the most likely possibility is suggested to be that he slept with Connie, and the brief appearance of Donna in Connie's place was just a hallucination.

What troubles me about this explanation is that Arctor sees the same Connie/Donna transformation when he is playing back the surveillance tapes in the police station. He plays and rewinds a hologram of the surveillance several times and still notices the same effect.

His hallucinations generally seemed to be random and brief, so I find it unlikely that he could have had the exact same hallucination both while: (a) lying in bed with Connie/Donna, and (b) reviewing the surveillance tapes. Adding to (b), he didn't just see the transformation once while reviewing the surveillance tapes - the transformation coordinated precisely with his playing and rewinding of them. It's not impossible for a hallucination to be that sophisticated, but it seems unlikely to me.

Of course, if the Connie/Donna transformation wasn't a hallucination, this begs the question of what actually was going on. All I can think of would be that:

Audrey (who goes by the name of "Hank" while in the scramble suit and who poses as Donna) was wearing some high-tech Connie disguise that briefly glitched while she was lying in bed with Bruce (who goes by the name of "Fred" while in the scramble suit and who poses as Arctor). The glitch was responsible for the transformation, and this would explain why Bruce saw the transformation both while lying in bed with Connie/Audrey and while reviewing the surveillance tapes. But then... why would Audrey sleep with Bruce? She seems very concerned about Bruce's well-being when she drops him off at New-Path and later talks with Mike about him (Mike is another undercover agent who poses as a New-Path employee), but why sleep with him? Did she feel so bad for him that she would sleep with him? Or, was she in love with him?

  • "...the transformation coordinated precisely with his playing and rewinding of them" This easily could have been due to minor, consistent changes in lighting or contrast. Even a sober brain can process identical objects quite differently in the day vs night, for example. And Arctor was in the throes of psychosis. Trying to rationalize what he was seeing in an objective way just isn't possible. – b1nary.atr0phy Jun 9 '16 at 1:32
  • For it to be so consistent, it would have to be delirium, not hallucination. Read up on the difference. – user45409 Jan 10 '17 at 4:31

Jason P. Vest addresses this on page 169 of his novel Future Imperfect: Philip K. Dick at the Movies. To quote from it, he states:

[The director] again suggests that Arctor's dual identity seeps into the surrounding world. Arctor can no longer be certain that his perception of reality is trustworthy, because no other character objectively confirms that Connie's face morphs into Donna's. A Scanner Darkly's audience, like Arctor, is cast adrift. From this point in [the director's] film, the viewer does not know whether Arctor's experience is real, imagined, or a precarious combination of the two.

This critic is effectively arguing that as Arctor is an untrustworthy protagonist, nothing he views can be treated without suspicion. This echoes the character from the book very well (and Dick's books in general), where the protagonist can often be an unreliable narrator.

Having said that, what makes the scene even more likely to be a hallucination is Arctor's reaction to the tape from the novel:

I better run this over to the lab, he thought; it's been tampered with by an expert. I've been fed fake tape... Somebody fake in Donna. Superimposed over Connie. Forged evidence that Arctor was laying the Hawthorne girl. Why?

So in the novel, Arctor doesn't himself even believe that what he is seeing is real. Therefore, I'd suggest that whilst the film adds more ambiguity to the scene, the intention is likely the same - it is a projection of his desires, not a real occurrence.

Therefore, I'd argue: yes, the scene is part of his hallucination.


I also spent a lot of time mulling over this scene. My conclusion was also that it was Donna in a disguise, specifically (I think) a scramble-suit reprogrammed to only display one image, of Connie, that briefly malfunctioned. The fact that he saw it the same way on the tape, repeatedly, suggests too much consistency for a hallucination. I think there is definitely narrative symbolism going on with his own mental splitting though.

The book explores the depth of Donna and Arctor's relationship a bit more than the movie, naturally, and it seemed to me that she was in love with him too but keeping him at a distance intentionally. She knew that if she got too close to him, it would be harder to sacrifice him, which is why "she" never slept with him-- but by using the suit to change her identity, she was able to physically express her love for him, at least one time, without him knowing and complicating things further. She, as "Connie" also offered to do all the work when they had sex, which would make sense in a scramble suit since if he was grasping and pulling her body around, he'd be more likely to notice the shroud, even in a drugged-out haze.

  • Too many assumptions here for my taste. You're assuming that such a variation of the scramble suit exists. This isn't confirmed anywhere. You're assuming Donna both loved him and wanted to sleep with him. This isn't confirmed anywhere. What we do know by this point in the story is that Arctor is suffering from severe drug-induced psychosis. And what we, the viewers, are seeing is being distorted by his mental state. So we can't be any more certain than Arctor himself of what or why he's seeing the things he sees. It's intentionally obscure to give us a glimpse of his inner psychosis. – b1nary.atr0phy Jun 9 '16 at 1:00

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