Writer/director Kristoffer Borgli is intrigued. He is particularly interested in the paradoxical postmodern predicament of our addiction to attention and the ways in which capitalism continually cannibalizes our time, chewing up our neurons and emotions like Pac-Man. In his debut feature, “Sick of Myself,” set in his hometown of Oslo, Norway, Borgli followed a young woman’s desperate attempts to gain attention through a series of contrived situations to showcase her suffering and martyrdom. In his second feature film, “Dream Scenario,” Borgli sets his sights on America and imagines what might happen when someone gets a lot of attention for doing nothing.
The script for “Dream Scenario” sounds like three ideas loosely woven into an absurd scenario. The first part is the strange but strangely simple premise based on a relatively strange idea: What if everyone in the world started dreaming about one person? The man in question is the extremely average Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage), a floundering professor of evolutionary biology, father of two, and husband.
He suddenly begins to appear in everyone’s dreams and becomes the most famous man in the world without any effort. Often overlooked in his daily life, Paul is discreetly happy to have everyone talking about him. Maybe we’ll have a chance to publish his book?
The second story arc is an exploration of a kind of cancel culture, or the long-established tradition of collectively placing a public figure on a pedestal only to tear him down. Paul doesn’t necessarily inspire admiration as a helpful friend in dreamland, but he does inspire a strange curiosity, and the mass attention focused on him changes his life irreparably.
When Dream Paul’s dreams in which he is the aggressor turn violent, the masses—especially his students at the fictional Osler University—turn on him, even though he is through no fault of his own action. This argument is the most complicated in the film; This is mostly because Paul is an almost entirely passive figure, unfairly mocking contemporary campus culture without containing any tinge.
The third strand is the most inadequate but most successful: a satire that eviscerates attention capitalism. With the advent of his inexplicable fame, Paul asked “Thoughts?” He is courted by a social media agency called. Its cast includes characters played by Michael Cera, Kate Berlant and Dylan Gelula; these characters introduce him as the Sprite spokesman and claim that they can call Barack Obama on his behalf.
After Paul is socially chewed up and spat out, a market rises in his wake, and Borgli delivers a wild parody of a new breed of influencer using Paul-inspired technology. “Dreamfluencers” (imagined as a diverse, lovable group of 20-somethings living together in a sprawling mansion in Los Angeles) can visit anyone’s dreams and sell them sneakers, supplements, or a new item. Subconscious: The last frontier of advertising.
Borgli has a lot of ideas, and perhaps he puts a little too much into his “Dream Scenario”, which is full of cultural commentary but not very deep. He has an absurdist view of American culture and seems both confused and curious about the possibilities of America’s hypocritical relationship with fame and industry.
Luckily, Borgli has the formidable Cage to hold it all together through sheer force of will, whose hyper-stylized acting adds to the surreal comedy highlights. Cage gets caught up in Paul’s incredible averageness, and as always, Cage brings an incredible amount of emotion and vulnerability to his performance. We understand Paul thanks to Cage, who expresses how hard Paul tries to be loved, respected and loved.
Borgli’s visual approach to the dream-like logic of the “Dream Scenario” is to bring together the average and the absurd, the ordinary and the baroque. Scenes appear completely normal, but there’s an oddity and humor in the editing (Borgli also edited the film) or an odd camera angle (cinematographer Benjamin Loeb) that gives the sense that something is wrong. blend dream scenes with reality; You never know what’s what, so there’s always a sneaking feeling of uneasiness.
The “Dream Scenario” itself is a lot like a dream: There is a wide range of ideas, but not all of them fit into a logical narrative. Just like a dream, you are left with thoughts and impressions that you have to ponder for a long time. These sticky images and deep ideas fall into place, even if you’re not quite sure they all fit together.
“Dream Scenario” — 2.5 stars (out of 4)
MPA rating: (R for language, violence and some sexual content)
Running time: 1:42
How to watch: In theaters November 10