Dream One (1984) poster

Dream One (1984)


aka Nemo

UK/France. 1984.


Director – Arnaud Selignac, Screenplay – Arnaud Selignac, Telsche Boorman & Jean-Pierre Esquenazi, Producer – John Boorman & Claude Nedjar, Photography – Philippe Rousselot, Music – Gabriel Yared, Special Effects/Production Design – Les Productions de l’Ordinaire (Gilles Lacombe & Nikos Meletopolous). Production Company – NEF Diffusion/Christel/Films A2/Channel 4


Jason Connery (Nemo), Seth Kibel (Young Nemo), Mathilda May (Princess Alice), Charley Boorman (Cunegond/Elevator Operator), Harvey Keitel (The Legend), Dominique Pinon (Monkey), Nipsey Russell (Mr Rip/Benjamin), Michel Blanc (Count Boris Danilov/Nemo’s Father), Katrine Boorman (Countess Duchka Alexandrovna/Nemo’s Mother), Carole Bouquet (Rals-Akrai)


Young Nemo’s parents go to the opera, leaving him at home with the butler Benjamin. Benjamin promises to tell Nemo a story that involves Zorro, Alice in Wonderland and the Nautilus. Nemo wanders into the elevator, which takes him through space and deposits him on a strange beach. The beach is inhabited by an obnoxious schoolboy, a monkey man, the mysterious magician Mr Rip, various Russian aristocrats, the masked swordsman Legend and the beautiful Princess Alice of Yonderland. When Nemo becomes jealous of Legend’s attentions towards the princess, he asks Mr Rip to transform him into an adult so that he can win her love.

Dream One is a peculiar film. It was produced by John Boorman, the renowned director of the likes of Deliverance (1972), Zardoz (1974) and Excalibur (1981), among others. Boorman makes Dream One into a virtual family affair, getting his daughters Katrine and Telsche and son Charley into the act in various capacities, and allowing his former assistant Arnaud Selignac to take the directorial wheel.

Exactly what type of fantasy the Boorman clan was trying to make is a puzzle. There is a sense of tall tale fabulism to Dream One a la Baron Munchausen. There are allegorical character map-overs – characters playing double-roles, one in reality and one in fantasy, a la The Wizard of Oz (1939). The film feels like it has been conceived along the lines of a fantasy like The Pagemaster (1994), wherein the young hero has adventures in a secondary world that contains various characters out of literary fiction come to life, although this is never made particularly clear.

Certainly, some of the characters, such as the sinister Zorro counterpart, vary considerably from their fictional counterparts, while it is never clear who others – the Russian aristocrats, the monkey man and the magician – are meant to be standing in for. There is a certain punning amusement to the concept – one that at the end allows the character who appears to be named after the hero of the Little Nemo in Slumberland comic-strip to figuratively become Captain Nemo of Jules Verne and depart in The Nautilus.

Monkey (Dominique Pinon), Cunegond (Charley Boorman), Mr Rip (Nipsey Russell), Nemo (Seth Kibel) and Princess Alice (Mathilda May) in Dream One (1984)
(l to r) Monkey (Dominique Pinon), Cunegond (Charley Boorman), Mr Rip (Nipsey Russell), Nemo (Seth Kibel) and Princess Alice (Mathilda May)

However, the results are underwhelming. The action is limited to almost entirely a single beach stage set and the film spends the entire time running from Point A to Point B, Point C and back again while never going anywhere. There is little that takes off as a flight of fantasy.

Certainly, Arnaud Selignac and the Boormans corral an amazing cast, including Sean Connery’s son Jason known for tv’s Robin of Sherwood (1983-6); Jean-Pierre Jeunet/Marc Caro regular Dominique Pinon as the monkey-man; French actress Carole Bouquet from That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) and For Your Eyes Only (1981); the lovely porcelain-skinned French actress Mathilda May from Lifeforce (1985) as the princess, and no less than Harvey Keitel as the Zorro figure.

There is an attractive classical musical score and some often striking costume designs. On the other hand, the effects are rickety – sometimes downright poor as in the case of the landing of the spaceship – and the sets flat. Much of the acting is poor, with Jason Connery in particular delivering his performance in an awful series of gaping ‘gee gosh’ expressions.

Trailer here (not in English)

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