By Kate May
A24’s latest release, Dream Scenario, is an absurdist horror film that is every bit as captivating as it is perplexing.
It follows university professor Paul Matthews, played by Nicholas Cage, who inexplicably finds himself appearing in the dreams of family, friends and, most significantly, strangers. Matthews, the epitome of a non-descript, “inadequate loser,” becomes a mysterious figure lurking in these dreams, simply doing nothing.
Matthews enjoys a brief spell of viral notoriety, only for it to wane as the dreams begin take a sinister turn. The same unexplainable phenomenon soon turns him into a pariah and an object of collective fear and revulsion, delving into the societal practice of cancel culture and the effects it can have for those implicated.
Nonetheless, Dream Scenario weaves elements of dark comedy into its narrative. An excruciatingly toe-curling sex scene is one such instance which is likely to be etched into the minds of viewers for a long time. The film seamlessly manoeuvres between being uproariously funny, to anxiety-inducing, and finally, to bizarrely moving. It certainly kept me on the edge of my seat throughout its runtime.
The film itself draws inspiration from the real-life case of ‘This Man,’ a sketch that prompted the creation of the website “Ever Dream This Man?” According to the website, thousands of people across the world reported seeing the man depicted in their dreams. In an interview with GQ, director Kristoffer Borgli explored Carl Jung’s theory of dreams and its influence on his film’s writing. Jung’s psychoanalytic theory suggests that “This Man” represents a universal dream archetype, stemming from an unconscious mind influenced by both personal and universal experiences. Jung’s analysis posits that it is only natural for individuals to create similar dream characters based on shared experiences of films, memes, and other mainstream media. Borgli acknowledges this theory, likening Paul to an egregore — a spirit willed into existence by a small group of individuals who are then subsequently haunted by that same spirit they conjured.
“Ever Dream This Man?” can be found here: https://www.thisman.org
All in all, Dream Scenario offers a unique, darkly comedic, an absurd take on internet fame and cancel culture, weaving a story that is as outrageously funny as it is haunting. It is a must-see for those who appreciate offbeat and quirky cinema.