Dream Scenario

December 29, 2023 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS | 4 Comments |

(Directed by Kristoffer Borgli, 2023)

The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium.” (Carl G. Jung, “Approaching the Unconscious.”)

Humani nihil a me alienum puto” (“nothing human is alien to me”) – Terence.

If the ‘ Viennese quack’ (according to Nabokov) Sigmund Freud is correct, all dream content is disguised wish-fulfillment. So mind what you wish. In Dream Scenario, Professor Paul Matthews (a sublime Nicolas Cage) is a balding, middle-aged academic, the type Dirk Bogarde used to play – bright, ineffectual, wistful, querulous – who is neither published (well, he’d have to write something), nor quoted (unless plagiarized) nor noticed. His wife (Julianne Nicholson) cares for him in a condescending fashion, and his daughters and his biology students find him uncool, harmless and unmemorable.

Then comes the event sociological: Matthews starts turning up in people’s dreams. Even people who have never seen or heard of him. Initially, within vividly-filmed sequences of ‘elusive dreams of private persons to which we hold no key’, he’s just there in the background, a self-conscious extra: walking by a bad car accident; raking leaves, ambling by while a girl seeks to avoid alligators by climbing on a piano; loitering during an earthquake at the college; inspecting mushrooms while a man is hunted by a blood-drenched assailant. He’s thrilled to find himself famous, and seeks to exploit this fame to get his swarm-theory book (not yet written) published. But the social-media-savvy talent agents (Michael Cera, Kate Berlant, Dylan Gelula) want him to become the face of that tempestuous refreshment, Sprite, and in the case of Gelula, to re-create an erotic dream, which turns out rather badly in real life.

The dreams start turning quite dark, in a way that sees Matthews go from curio to outcast, in an amusing and provocative reflection on the transience of fame, superficial and fragile social mores, and cancel culture, reminiscent of the recent Black Mirror episode, “Joan is Awful.” But then, like a discarded meme or an over-extended twitter-fight, the film runs out of puff, focus, and ideas, and folds like a cheap suit.  The Professor (unlike ‘Frank Underwood’ (aka Kevin Spacey, another negation victim) from House of Cards) spurns an offer to be interviewed by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson; meant as a hip, woke, smirking, cultural reference, it was in fact a big ‘miss’ – The Prof. should have appeared with Carlson; it would have resurrected the character, and beguiled us in a way that the film’s conclusion did not.


  1. Reply

    Smug of Glebe

    December 31, 2023

    Ah yes, the 'Event Sociological.' They should have stood Cage in front of Devil's Tower, Wyoming

  2. Reply

    Ritchie Ho

    January 2, 2024

    I saw Tucker interview Spacey - interesting!

  3. Reply

    Sandra S Miller

    February 18, 2024

    “Dreams Don’t Mean Anything.” (From Martin Amis’s “The Information” The title of Richard Tull’s second book.)

  4. Reply

    Carl E Weiss

    February 18, 2024

    This film seems to be based on a real life publicity stunt. I think The Man even appears in Dream Scenario, standing outside of a theatre.


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