Dan Dream Review
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.