By Bears Fonte

Two of the films from Fantasia that left the strongest impression were both comedies for continental Europe, Denmark’s DAN DREAM and The Netherlands’ RON GOOSSENS, LOW BUDGET STUNTMEN. I honestly have no idea if either of those nations have a history of comedy but both films proved adept in creating powerful, layered characters that the audience could both laugh at and cry with. Both films involve a hero pursing a far-fetched dream against all possibility and hope for success and succeeding even in failure. Both films create a full world that can be attributed to this film alone, much like Paul Thomas Anderson meets Wes Anderson.

The actual ‘Hope Whisper’ in 1983

In DAN DREAM, Thorkil Bonnesen (Casper Christensen) claims he will have the first electric car built within a year, and upends a group of eccentric engineers and designers to a provincial town in Denmark to do it. Based on true events, director Jesper Rofelt turns Christensen’s own script into a joyride packed with awkward humor and bold characters. At its core is a man with a dream, and his enthusiasm to defy the odds is contagious. Desperate to meet their deadline, the team navigates a suspicious town and the realities of physics to do the impossible. In the end, everything that could go wrong at the unveiling does, which is why no one has heard of the ‘Hope Whisper’ today, the original name of the actual car that drove head-on into the exhibition barrier in its on and only demonstration. The film balances the facts of the actual company with what seem like pretty ridiculous inventions for the film, but with style quickly established, nothing seems out of place.

In RON GOOSSENS, LOW BUDGET STUNTMEN an overnight youtube sensation finds himself embarking on a career falling off balconies and smashing cars for money. This would be enough of a set-up for a great movie, but Steffen Haars and Flip Van Der Kuil comedy finds Ron Goossens (Tim Haars) only at it to try to bed Dutch superstar and supermodel Bo Maerten, to prove to his wife he’s ‘still got it.’ His wife actually threatens to leave him if he can’t do it, after he discovers she has had sex with basically the entire town, including all his friends. Able to recover quickly from his many stunts due mainly to being completely drunk all the time, Goossens finds he has to quit drinking to make any headway with Maerten, and when he does finally achieve a clear headed perspective, he begins to wonder if his entire life has really amounted to anything (that he can actually remember). A surprising morality tale with a pure heart and a cornucopia of crazy characters, RON GOOSSENS, LOW BUDGET manages to actually charm in spite of the constant (and hilarious) intrusion of montage music courtesy of Dutch lounge-legend Dennie Christian which faux-charms at every instant.

Unfortunately, both films suffer from unnecessary bigotry, deriving a disturbing number of jokes from a character’s sexual orientation (DAN DREAM) or race (RON GOOSSENS, LOW BUDGET STUNTMEN). DAN DREAM can claim the ‘time period’ as an excuse but they also give themselves an ‘out’ at the end where the affected characters seems to say its okay, which undercuts the possibility of actually using it as a teaching moment (unlike a domestic abuse plot point which plays out at a critical moment and ends up one of the most poignant sequences in the film). GOOSEENS is much worse, where some ‘jokes’ are as simple as calling a character having a realization a ‘homo’ or throwing bananas at a black character. Again, the characters laugh this off, so apparently, we are supposed to as well but I just couldn’t. Considering the rest of the films are so spot on from a comic standpoint, I am left thinking people in these nations are just more okay with overt bigotry? What other conclusion can I draw? I don’t think I am a more PC than most people, but I can’t imagine these jokes existing in a US version of these films. That said, they are both great films, but I would have to say my enjoyment was slightly diminished in the end from the poor taste left by a few too many of these jokes.

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