Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Dream Scenario – TIFF 2023 Film Review

2 min read

Still Courtesy - A24

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

In continuation with the Norwegian iconoclast's signature brand of stark referential humour, the latest satirical romp from is a meta-textual voyage into the shallow crevices of influencer culture. As we follow 's deadbeat Paul Matthews on his journey for publication serendipity, Borgli turns his 16mm camera towards a distinct cyber-space. Tweets and viral interviews are weaponised, as the face of Paul Matthews is plastered within the resting subconscious of average citizens. There's no rhyme or reason to Borgli's premise, as Dream Scenario tackles the harsh realities of internet-obsessed virality with micro-dosed sardonicism. Akin to his previous feature Sick of Myself, Borgli meticulously walks a mean tight-rope between sympathy and mockery for his has-been protagonist. Paul Matthews is both a fool and a family man — an egotist searching for consolidation within his mid-life crisis. 

The dilapidated expectations of the public are what ignite Borgli's initial thematic confrontations. As the mesmeric edit encapsulates the bewilderment of the Matthews phenomenon, Borgli and his team of editors utilise clever non-linear editing for percussive effect. Borgli is far more interested in the purely reactive sensations of the absurdist dreamscapes; directly confronting the surreality of the delusions with plentiful dark-comedy. Everybody wants something in Dream Scenario; as Nicholas Cage's high-wire performance clashes with a distinct meta-text. The memability &sensationalism behind Cage's eccentric role call-back the Cageification pleasures of yore. An aura of regret arises from the pitfalls of Paul Matthews' fall from grace — servicing thematic whiplash against Cage's own internet transcendence. 

In a film all about the surface-level perceptions of the consuming public, Borgli occasionally hints at a larger narrative-scale. Dream Scenario is often limited to Matthews' tight-knit community, limiting the emotional scope of the film's daring premise. As the film concludes with a resounding introspection from the protagonist's insular-perspective, Borgli often detours away from the psychosomatic insularity of Cage's naive role. Unlike Sick of Myself, Borgli shifts character perspectives ad nauseam. Dream Scenario‘s accompanying tempo rarely endorses the maximalist eccentricities of the dreamscapes themselves. Borgli's directorial style is purposefully diluted this time around; with varying degrees of emotional catharsis. 

Dream Scenario works most effectively as a merciless self-referential satire; commenting on the economic and sociological hierarchies of our internet-obsessed camaraderies. The pathos at the crux of Paul Matthews' descent into corporate limbo is a cautionary tale at heart. Where Borgli often mocks his lead protagonist with various elongated sight-gags, Dream Scenario still draws sympathy from the humanity of Cage's whimpering role. Anyone could realistically become Paul Matthews in our present-age — a hyper-susceptible average-joe that finds himself at the cross-roads of our collective banality. 

Dream Scenario screened at this year's  as part of the Platform competition. A24 will release the film later this year.