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Borgli’s previous cinematic dollop, Sick of Myself, was a dazzlingly fully formed examination of contemporary narcissism and Dream Scenario, his first American production and third film, is a further step forward. It is more briskly paced, stylistically confident, visually gorgeous (thanks to Mandy cinematographer Benjamin Loeb’s use of autumnal 90s film stock) and surprisingly emotional in its final act.  Charlie Kaufman is the obvious point of reference here and what reads like Adaptation II on paper congeals nearer to Gondry’s romantic take on the influential writer, though combined with a cruel cringiness prevalent among a particular subset of young directors (it’s no mistake Ari Aster is a producer).

 Speaking of intentional cringe, this film features perhaps the most excruciating sex scene of any film I’ve ever experienced. Michael Cera and Nicholas Braun (of Succession fame) both make hilariously memorable cameos and Julianne Nicholson again proves what an underrated actor she is (see Monos). Nicolas Cage is brilliant in more subdued mode, though delivers one of his best performances of the 21st century. The actor apparently based aspects of his character on his college professor dad and his personal struggle with memeification. He even experienced a fan breaking into his home which is eerily, yet absurdly replicated in an early scene. There is a cute nod to Cronenberg’s eXistenZ  via the film’s psychotic yet sadly realistic Norio advertisement. 

Dream Scenario’s sole fatal misstep was to excise its trailer music, The Cranberries’ Dreams, from the film itself, as it features lyrics so pertinent that the screenplay literally attempts to reproduce them. I blasted the song on my headphones while exiting the cinema, enhancing the emotionality of the levitational, goosebumps-inducing final scene. Narcissism seems to be a recurring theme within Borgli’s universe and cancel culture rears its ugly head in this particular film. If we dream about someone committing a horrific crime, does that cast the same person a monster in reality?

Upon waking this morning my wife informed me that I’d cheated on her in a dream and I could have sworn I detected a salty glare from her. Inflexible judgement of imagined transgressions becomes the crux of the film’s third movement and both cancelling liberals and beckoning right wingers (such as Peterson, Rogan and Carlson) are heartily represented. Cage’s character wants nothing to do with either camp; a crucial theme which could be summed up by the Adorno quote: “Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality.”  My favourite film of 2023.


Dream Scenario: Directed by Kristoffer Borgli. With Lily Bird, Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson, Jessica Clement. 


‘Nicholas Cage conflictingly relishing his role as the peoples' Freddy Krueger in Dream Scenario.’ (Nick Hart)


Film Review- Dream Scenario (Kristoffer Borgli, 2023)

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