Nicolas Cage plays “remarkable nobody” and evolutionary biologist Paul in Dream Scenario, who one day inexplicably starts appearing in people’s dreams. At first he is perplexed by the attention but soon leans into the upsides of fame as a way to get his first book published. In a similar fashion to Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli’s previous hilariously twisted feature Sick of Myself the narcissistic pursuit of fame in the digital age turns into a relentless nightmare.
Borgli’s first English language film is produced by Ari Aster. It has a similar energy to Beau is Afraid and the work of Charlie Kaufman and boasts an excellent performance from leading man Cage who taps into the same unhinged existential angst as he did in Adaptation. It plays out as a layered commentary on cancel culture that also perceptively satirises current advertising practices.
Julianne Nicholson beside Cage as his wife who also takes advantage of his newfound status to further her career is particularly funny as a voice of reason. Their dynamic is not only amusingly honest as she rolls her eyes at his naivety but quite touching as their life gets increasingly more upsetting. As things take a darker turn Borgli flexes his horror muscles in unsettling and gory nightmare sequences. He doesn’t hold back but also knows when to turn the humour back on when it comes to the theme of temptation. It’s a film that notes how easy it is to get sucked into the hype while also poking fun at the desperate human desire to be adored.
With Dream Scenario, Borgli has crafted a compelling film where fantasy bleeds into reality and vice versa and the truth is so skewed it’s difficult to know who to trust. It may meander in its latter half and lack some of the bite of Borgli’s previous feature but it cuts mercilessly close to the bone when it comes to the absurdity of the modern world.
Dream Scenario will be in cinemas on Friday 10 November 2023.