D: Jesper Rofelt / 98m
Cast: Casper Christensen, Frank Hvam, Marcus Millang, Niclas Vessel Kølpin, Louisa Yaa Aisin, Stine Schrøder Jensen, Lars Hjortshøj, Jelina Moumou Meyer, Peter Gantzler, Mia Lyhne, Jacob Lohmann
Outside of Denmark it’s unlikely that anyone has heard of Whisper Electronic Car A/S, but back in the early Eighties, this company attempted to design and manufacture a Danish electric car intended for mass consumption. They even got so far as to introduce the first version, called the Hope Whisper, at a premiere event in front of then Danish Prime Minister, Poul Schlüter. The fact that the Hope Whisper isn’t a household name the world over (or even in Denmark) should give you an idea of just how successful it was, but in Dan Dream, whether or not it succeeds or fails is beside the point. Tired of being patronised or ignored by his bosses, sales executive Thorkil Bonnesen (Christensen) quits his job and following a chance encounter with engineer Jens Knagstrup (Hvam) and his electric bicycle, decides to give Denmark their first electric car. Using Jens’ battery design, Thorkil enlists the aid of a one-armed mechanic, Vonsil (Millang), and ex-colleague Henrik (Kølpin), and together they move to the quiet country town of Bjerringsund to set up shop and build their (Dan) dream car.
There’s some local opposition at first, even though the town’s mayor, Kai Ove (Hjortshøj), is behind them a hundred per cent. But Thorkil charms them enough to win them over to his side, and the car’s production proceeds smoothly until the fateful day of the premiere. Along the way, director Rofelt and co-writers (and co-stars) Christensen and Hvam provide us with a hugely entertaining movie that wears its heart on its sleeve from the beginning, and which proves to be one of the unsung “heroes” of 2017. There’s drama to be had from the setbacks that have to be overcome, but this is less about the creation and launch of a revolutionary mode of transport, but a look at how it affects the lives of those involved (well, some of them; Vonsil and Henrik remain much the same throughout). It’s interesting to note that of the three male characters most affected – Thorkil, Jens and Kai – each has issues relating to their wives. One is a bully in need of a comeuppance, one learns his wife has had an affair since arriving in Bjerringsund, while the last treats his wife badly in a moment of weakness. Some of this allows for trenchant comments about the racist and sexist atttudes of the time, and the script isn’t afraid to have Thorkil et al look stupid or unwittingly insensitive.
But first and foremost, Dan Dream is a comedy whose easy-going material revolves around the notion that “everything is impossible until it’s been done”, a bright, positive statement that reflects well on the team’s efforts, even in the face of subsequent disaster. The humour is light and unforced, and reliant on its cast’s abilities to play bemused, baffled, and flustered in equal measure while also retaining a naīvete that allows for sympathy and the viewer’s support in their efforts. Making his feature debut, Rofelt directs with a flair for capturing the minor details in a scene, details that add credibility to the often whimsical nature of the script, and he deftly handles the underlying seriousness of much of the material. He’s supported by a cast who all play their roles with a terrific awareness of when too much is enough, and who are clearly having a great deal of fun in the process. This transfers itself to the viewer, and the movie remains amusing and involving throughout. It’s amiable and far from overly dramatic, but it is a gently unfolding piece that is confidently handled, wonderfully consistent, and a very pleasant way to spend ninety-eight minutes.
Rating: 8/10 – smart, amusing, and providing a wry commentary on the times (in Denmark at least), Dan Dream is a movie that offers a number of simple pleasures throughout its run time, all of which make it immensely enjoyable; one of those movies that absolutely should be given a chance when you come across it, it proves that some movies don’t have to be profound to make an impact, or have a message to justify their existence.
NOTE: There’s no trailer with English subtitles available at present.