Wonder Woman aside, fall’s origin stories include EVs, Dahmer, and Gilbert
10/15/2017  Nathan Mattise


Separate films, but they all took Fantastic Fest audiences to the beginning.

AUSTIN, Texas—Standard film genres—horror, documentary, sci-fi, et al.—run
rampant at Fantastic Fest, but subgenre niches also seem to emerge every
outing. In 2016, the festival boasted multiple films about promotional film
art, for instance, in addition to a treasure trove of animation styles.

In 2017, origin stories jumped off the schedule. The high-profile Professor
Marston and the Wonder Women was the most prominent (our review to come, but
it's worth it for those interested in explorations of societal forces in
specific historic periods... or if you want the Finding Neverland of the
Wonder Woman-universe). But that film was far from the only title taking
audiences back to the beginning of a beloved (or at least notorious)
cultural institution.

Dan Dream

Ever hear of The Hope Whisperer? Me neither, but evidently today’s electric
car enthusiasts should dig into Danish history a bit. Long before Tesla or
the Chevy Bolt became twinkles in automakers’ eyes, a businessman named
Thure Barsøe-Carnfeldt transitioned from his successful computer company to
focus on dreams of a battery-powered electric car. Globally, 5,000 of these
Hope Whisperers were sold after its 1985 debut, but the car never truly took

Why? Well, that’s precisely what the new Danish comedy Dan Dream sets out to
detail. This based-on-a-true-story journey takes viewers back to rural
Denmark in the early 1980s right as successful businessman Thorkil pivots to
his new EV dreams.

Obviously, liberties have been taken (including name changes) to liven
things up, and Thorkil’s soon-to-be four-man outfit relies on some
eccentrics. Henrik, a hypeman with Duran Duran sensibilities, comes over
from the previous company to handle events and promotion. Vonsil, a crude
one-armed autobody expert from Thorkil’s local garage, leads the
manufacturing. And Jens, a shy home tinkerer whose DIY electric bike battery
planted the idea in Thorkil’s brain, will handle the all-important engine
and battery. The quartet leaves Copenhagen for the small-town life (and the
easy production facility acquisitions) of Bjerringsund. Once there, local
characters from the mayor to the librarian help such tech-forward city folks
adjust to country life in the hopes this new car can put the town on the
global map.

Thorkil ends up promising he’ll build his car in a year to deliver the first
strawberries of the season to Danish press, but things, of course, do not go
according to plan. Jens’ already-fragile family situation can’t get settled,
and his wife ends up falling for a local trumpeter. The mayor’s efforts to
build the Scandinavian Detroit lead to him butting in far too often with
horrible local-focused advice (everything has to be hotdogs, beer, and jazz
in his eyes). And life in Bjerringsund doesn’t mix well with Thorkil’s
foursome: Henrik is too eccentric, and people swipe his pet rabbit; Vonsil’s
hits on everyone and tells crude jokes about Thorkil’s black wife; you can’t
order crepes anywhere; and the town rumor mill points to the whole thing
being a nuclear bomb initiative.

Dan Dream comes from the Danish team behind the country’s popular Klown
films, which I understand to be kinda Hangover-ish in how they revolve
around male bonding and eccentric personalities sprinkled with over-the-top
comedy without topical boundaries. Some moments here genuinely solicit
laughter, like the over-the-top mayor, an early brainstorming session, and
Henrik’s most ‘80s-instincts. Others fall flat, possibly due to US versus
Danish sensibilities (Vonsil comes off as straight racist/sexist often,
though the film smartly addresses this directly at one point).

But for most viewers, the biggest takeaways here will be the true-story core
itself. What happens to the Dan Dream (this film’s Hope Whisperer) actually
happened in a crazy bit of under-discussed modern history. No spoilers, but
the immediate headlines from the film’s Danish press may indicate why EVs
didn’t take off for another quarter-century: “Engineer-Death Experience.”

Dan Dream is currently available on VOD platforms like iTunes and Google
[© Condé Nast]

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