Strawberry Mansion Premieres at Sundance 2021: A Virtual Reality Extravaganza
Written by: Nikoleta Morales
What if the government didn’t tax just your paychecks and transactions, but your dreams as well?
Strawberry Mansion features a dystopian future where dreams can be taxed, and invaded by advertisers, government agent James Preble travels to the eccentric home of aging artist Arabella Isadora to audit her dreams, and finds himself falling in love as he explores her subconscious, stored on a vast library of VHS tapes.
The creators Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney said that they set out to make a movie that felt like getting lost in a strange dream. Sometimes you don't know where you are, or where you're headed. The thread you thought you were following disappears behind your back. You turn around and it's nowhere. The film is inspired in some ways by the fantasy movies we saw as kids in the 80's; Hopefully there's a childlike exuberance that can be felt throughout this unpredictable journey, as tension mounts from invented stakes, creating a world all its own. But there are larger themes at play as well: a mistrust of advertising, an uneasiness with mass surveillance, and a fear that our economic systems inspire overconsumption and erode natural ways of life. Time is thrown together into a mystical mixed batch where past and future exist together. Like a dream, not everything makes sense but the moments of vivid curiosity and confusion, flashes of terror, and the potent feelings of love, feel real and linger long after the dream has ended.
An American surrealist science fiction adventure romantic comedy film directed and written by Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley. The film stars Penny Fuller, Kentucker Audley, Grace Glowicki, Reed Birney, Linas Phillips and Constance Shulman.
The film had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 29, 2021.
Cultured Focus met with acting legend Penny Fuller who has had a magnificent career on Broadway, Television, and Film.
She discusses the Strawberry Mansion film, her time working with Robert Redford, achieving industry success, and insight she has gained by self reflection over the past year during Coronavirus. Readers are in for a real treat, so view the full video below.
Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future, an all-seeing surveillance state conducts “dream audits” to collect taxes on the unconscious lives of the populace. Mild-mannered government agent James Preble (Kentucker Audley) travels to a remote farmhouse to audit the dreams of Arabella “Bella” Isadora (Penny Fuller), an eccentric, aging artist.
Entering Bella’s vast VHS archive, which contains a lifetime of dreams, Preble stumbles upon a secret that offers him a chance at love—and hope for escape. Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney’s playfully surreal romantic fantasy envisions a world not so different from our own: a glitchy digital dystopia where every human experience is monetized— where even our unconscious minds have been colonized by advertising. With its wildly expressive color schemes and inventive dreamscapes, Strawberry Mansion also conjures an optimistic future through a retreat to our analog past. Audley and Fuller are disarmingly funny as the intergenerational (and interdimensional) lovers, while Grace Glowicki is affecting as the young Bella of Preble’s dreams. Electronic musician Dan Deacon scores this strange vision with shimmering synths and hypnotic strings.
ABOUT THE CAST Penny Fuller (Bella) most recently appeared on Broadway in ANASTASIA. She began her career starring in BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, three Shakespeare-in-the-Park productions, and the musicals CABARET, REX, (Drama Desk nomination) and APPLAUSE (Tony nomination). Her television work garnered her six EMMY nominations and the Emmy Award for THE ELEPHANT MAN. Recent Broadway: the 2017 revival of SUNDAY IN THE PARK, Horton Foote’s DIVIDING THE ESTATE, Neil Simon’s THE DINNER PARTY (Tony nomination) and Wendy Wasserstein’s AN AMERICAN DAUGHTER. At Lincoln Center she was in William Finn’s NEW BRAIN (Drama Desk nomination), and in regional theaters she played in: WHAT WE MAY
BE, STRAWBERRY MANSION, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, THE GLASS MENAGERIE, THE SEAGULL, THE CHERRY ORCHARD, DO I HEAR A WALTZ and A DELICATE BALANCE. In 2001 she was introduced to Barry Kleinbort, composer, lyricist, playwright, and cabaret director. With his encouragement she embarked on a new career phase
as a cabaret artist in New York clubs and theaters. Their most recent collaboration, 13 THINGS ABOUT ED CARPOLOTTI, a solo musical commissioned by her with book, music, and lyrics by Mr. Kleinbort had its debut at 59e59 in New York, and most recently at the Broad Theater in Santa Monica.
Kentucker Audley (“Preble”) is a filmmaker, film programmer, actor, and movies hat salesman. He starred in the 2015 Sundance-premiered, "Christmas, Again," and can be seen in the new film, "She Dies Tomorrow," by Amy Seimetz, as well as many other indie films. "Strawberry Mansion" is his second collaboration with Albert Birney after 2017's "Sylvio." He also created NoBudge, an online platform showcasing short films, as well as Movies Brand, a place to buy hats that say movies on them.
Grace Glowicki (Young Bella) has starred in films that have premiered at Sundance, SXSW, TIFF, Slamdance, & Tribeca. In 2016, Grace was awarded a Sundance Special Jury Award for Outstanding Performance for her role in HER FRIEND ADAM, and was later named a 2016 TIFF Rising Star. In 2019 she performed in TITO, her feature-length directorial debut. The film premiered at 2019 SXSW where it won the Adam Yauch Hornblower Award. The film was called "an instant classic of acting" by The New Yorker. Grace is currently in pre-production for Ben Petrie's WORMS, and her next directorial project, DUG FIND ROSE.
Reed Birney (Peter) has been working in film, television and theater for
decades. Among his earliest credits are Albert Innaurato’s Broadway comedy GEMINI in 1974 and Arthur Penn’s FOUR FRIENDS in 1981. Most recently, Birney won a Tony Award for THE HUMANS. He has received numerous other awards and nominations for plays including CASA VALENTINA, MAN FROM NEBRASKA, UNCLE VANYA,
BLASTED, and CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION. On television, he can currently be seen on the Apple series "Home Before Dark", and is also well known as Vice President Donald Blythe in the Netflix series “House of Cards".
The film was produced by Sarah Winshall, Taylor Ava Shung, Emma Hannaway, and Matisse Rifai.
For more on the film visit: https://www.sundance.org/ \
Film photo credit: DP Tyler Davis