For all of you life-long Dick fans, this documentary (which chronicles Dick’s life and career) may be old news. But I was less familiar with his work before taking this course, and completely ignorant about most of his personal life, so I found this documentary particularly intriguing.
Here’s the link (the full documentary is available on Youtube): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM921saJqXc
If you haven’t seen it yet and have a spare hour and a half (…dead week), I highly recommend watching it. Dick’s close friends, colleagues, step child, girlfriends, and wives (3 out of 5, at least) give personal accounts of their relationships with him. We even see a few clips of Dick himself speaking at conferences. The film was originally made in 2007 for an Argentinian television program but was broadcast in the US soon after.
The whole film is pretty interesting, frankly, aside from the weird fictionalized investigation theme (complete with actors wearing suspenders, looking at files and pinning pictures on a bulletin board… The director of the documentary produced crime dramas in Argentina, so he apparently couldn’t help himself.) The narrator even addresses the audience in the beginning with, “Gentlemen, the future circulation of his work will be based on the results of your investigation.”
Despite the opener’s cheesiness and blatant sexism, it points to one of the most mystifying and formative experiences in PKD’s life: the events during March of 1974, which led Dick to claim that he was a kind of messiah who was chosen to interact directly with God. Dick had a vision that predicted his son’s hernia, and he claimed to interact with God in different ways for some time afterwards. Some of his more skeptical friends claim that these allegedly divine encounters were mere acid flashbacks, but others affirm that these experiences were of a divine nature (like Dick’s close friend and contemporary, Tim Powers.) Whether or not Dick was actually a messiah, this experience shaped some of his later works – including VALIS – and drew him further into his meditation on defining reality, which we know pervades most of his work.
Another interesting aspect about the film is its depiction of Dick’s relationships with women. His therapist claims that Dick’s life was “a tragedy of women”, and several of his friends discuss his attraction to emotionally vulnerable women or women who needed “rescuing.” The film implies that the root of Dick’s attraction to broken women is his guilt about the death of his twin sister, who died during their infancy. Each of Dick’s wives featured in the film discuss how deeply his sister’s death pervaded his life and work, and how his perception of what his sister would have been like affected how he formed his female characters.
In a clip from a Science Fiction conference in France (where Dick was apparently hugely famous) he admits that many of his novels and stories feature a dark-haired female character who somehow distorts or muddles a central male character’s perception of what is real (Rachel in Androids fits this description.) Dick’s sister was dark-haired, as were most of his wives… perhaps his sister’s premature death prompted him to question the definition and existence of reality, which he then depicted in his work.