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A group of eccentric Danish men in the 1980s are going to make an
electric car, the Danish Dream.
The idea of an "electric car" goes back a long time. Certainly, even before modern gasoline-fueled automobiles, it was not uncommon to have a trolley in any given city. The trolley ran on electricity, but was confined to a track. A battery would be required to give it some freedom. And so, the story of the electric car is really the story of the battery that is powerful enough (and still small enough) to move a car forward.
Some people may be familiar with the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?", which chronicled GM's attempts in the 1990s. More recently we have Prius, Honda, Tesla and others finally taking the electric car seriously. But what makes "Dan Dream" interesting is that it shifts the focus from the American auto makers to Denmark, where they were developing such cars as early as 1981.
While heavily fictionalized, "Dan Dream" does offer a broad re-telling of the story of the Danish electric car, known as the Hope Whisper. Initially, many people thought the idea was silly or something for handicapped people. Although attaching a battery to a bicycle made sense, that same old problem kept cropping up: how do you power a car for more than a few meters? (One scene has the car crashing in front of its debut for the prime minister, an event that really did occur.) The film differs from the true story in a variety of ways. The most obvious is the change of the car from the Hope Whisper to the Dan Dream (Danish Dream). But more broadly, the quirky, offbeat characters we follow are almost certainly invented from scratch. The flamboyant guy who pushes every 1980s gay stereotype, the one-armed guy who does everything with his mouth the comic effect is tremendous and there are several laugh-out-loud moments. But this is by no means a biopic or documentary, even if some facts and timelines are vaguely in line with reality.
"Dan Dream" works because of its cast of characters. We feel sympathetic for them and egg them on, we laugh with them, and we cringe when one of them shows her complete lack of trumpet skills. Because the electric car industry is still facing hurdles, this story from the 1980s also remains relevant today. To see the change in attitudes the general public had in just 30 years is astounding. "Dan Dream" screens July 3, 2017 at the Fantasia International Film Festival. If it fails to inspire, at the very least it will make you smile.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From the creative duo that brought us 'Klovn' and 'Klown', comes their
next twisted comedy with a ton of heart called 'Dan Dream', that tells
the true life story of the world's first electric car. If you've ever
had the privilege to watch 'Klown', then you know about the off-beat
humor of the Danish team Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam have owned
since they stepped into the film world. With their silly bodily humor,
they still manage to tell engaging and heart felt stories. Dan Dream is
no different and has shades of 'Little Miss Sunshine' throughout.
Casper and Frank, who also star in the film, have perfectly captured
this small moment in history with all its glory and warts in their
unique brand of of comedy that includes butts and poop.
'Dan Dream' takes place in the 1980's and follows a guy named Thorkil Bonnesen (Casper), who has an idea to make the world's first electric car. He enlists the help of an odd group of people, including Jens (Hvam) who is a smart engineer, but is not present at home, Vonsil who is a one-armed mechanic who has a penchant for racist jokes, and Henrik who is a flamboyant man in charge of the decorations of the car and who also carries around his pet rabbit everywhere. These four guys must now find the finding and the perfect city to make their prototype car and unveil it on the world. They find a small-town, run by an inept mayor and set out to deliver strawberries in their new electric car to the people who said it would never happen.
Of course, you can look up to see what really happened, but then that would take the fun out of everything. The script is very genuine and real, as these four men mostly let their personal lives slip away in order to finish this project. Because of this, we see their faults, triumphs, and character arcs that is completely redeeming. There is a sense of accomplishment, loyalty, and love throughout the film that just oozes the best parts of a movie like 'Little Miss Sunshine', but in this case, there is a bit of toilet humor, as when the inept mayor eats raw chicken at a fondue place.
The actors here are brilliant and really drive home their distinct personalities, and although some might be harsh and brutal, you grow to love them, because the characters themselves grow as well. 'Dan Dream' is inspiring and heartwarming from start to finish and is one of those great true stories told on film.
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