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Dream Scenario

Released 2023. Director: Kristoffer Borgli

DID ANYONE DREAM OF YOU LATELY? Paul Matthews, an ordinary man who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, suddenly finds himself recognised by random strangers everywhere he goes. You’re the guy in my dreams, they say to him. This unremarkable, balding, soft-spoken and bespectacled middle-age academic turns into an overnight sensation as the most famous person the world. Everyone sees him when they sleep.

People want his autographs and selfies. His class attendance balloons because he’s now an object of curiosity and he’s eager to hear his students describe their dreams. Mostly, Paul just stands there, not really doing anything, but vividly present in their dream world. Paul relishes his sudden rise to fame. Who doesn’t like being recognised? It feeds into our ego.

Dream Scenario operates on a level that blends everyday reality with a touch of un-reality in ways that recall Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York. In other words, it totally channels Charlie Kaufman. The fantastical elements, once you get past its bizarre nature and embrace the weird and wonderful, are there to function as a torture device to test Paul’s mettle.

The movie works best as a satire on fame, specifically the ephemeral kind where you’re “viral” one second before you disappear down the social media black hole. Paul is feted like a superstar even though he’s really just a boring guy his colleagues never invite to their dinner parties.

The celebrity’s downfall is just as swift as its rise. Overnight his fame turns against him when he starts to kill people in their dreams. First he was just standing there and everyone loved him. Now he’s Freddie Krueger murdering people in their sleep.

His students stop attending his classes and treat him with scorn. He’s feared and loathed everywhere he goes, even refused service. His career is ruined but the worst for Paul is even his own daughter is frightened of him and eventually his wife dumps him. This comment on cancel culture clearly puts Paul in the wrong when he gives in to temptation and crosses the line, letting his fame pilot his libido.

The sharpest comment is reserved for mocking influencer marketing. Recruited by a Millennial start-up (a terrific Michael Cera) to be the ultimate in product placement and targeted advertising, what do you suppose the world’s most visible person should be promoting? A social cause? A humanitarian appeal? Climate justice? How about Sprite?

Our hero has more principle than to promote sugared fizzy water. So Paul turns down the offer and instead, pushes for the promotion of his book on insect psychology he termed “ant-elligence”, which has yet to be written because of a severe case of decades-long procrastination. Well, Paul, you've missed your chance.

Nicolas Cage is note-perfect playing a man who completely loses control of his life. Like the moping and unfulfilled screenwriter Cage plays in Adaptation (another work of genius from Charlie Kaufman), Paul is a competent professional who feels under-appreciated but lacks the drive to take his life and career to a place it deserves. Unlike his character, Cage is in full control of this tragi-comedy. The various ideas may not quite cohere into a satisfying fullness but Cage juggles the disparate elements in a way that makes Dream Scenario feel funny, sad, fresh and original.

Click image above to view trailer. New window will open.

1 Comment

Ruth Maramis
Ruth Maramis
Jul 05

I really enjoyed this one! It's such a perfect role for Cage who's more versatile than most people think. The movie isn't perfect but his performance is absolutely spot on.

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