August 30, 2021

VIFF 2021 | Auditing Dreams – 'Strawberry Mansion' x Fantasia 2021

"Dream of me and I'll come to you."
Kentucker Audley Albert Birney | Strawberry Mansion | Fantasia International Film Festival 2021
Fantasia/Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2021—Written and directed by sophomore indie filmmaking duo Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley (who also stars), Strawberry Mansion can be best described as a sort of surrealist lo-fi cosmic romance adventure. Set in the year 2035, we follow a tax auditor who must account for fees to be paid on an elderly woman's recorded dreams.

Co-starring Grace Glowicki as a reoccurring love interest, the microbudget film uses colourful set design and bulky analog technology like cassette tapes to create its quirky dreamscape of corporate infiltration. Shot on video transferred to 16mm film, its viewing experience comes off as a very '80s-era vision of dream logic with an offbeat message about consumerist culture.

Wrapped in a confusing detective story of the mind, the filmmakers investigate heady ideas about self-actualizing our own dreams while we're awake to understand what they mean and tell us about ourselves. However, its somewhat elusive central romance feels weak as it gets distracted by so many different visual detours.

Birney and Audley turn Strawberry Mansion into a dreamlike sci-fi odyssey fantasia of near-future dystopia. Full of imagination and colour, the mediative indie film feels like a less restrained but more saturated episode of Black Mirror in its low-stakes corporate inception.

Strawberry Mansion screened virtually as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival (Montreal) online. Update: It also screens live in-person at the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Altered States series at the Rio Theatre on October 2nd and 9th.


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