If a bit of escapism is what you’re looking for this weekend (or whenever), then look no further than to the Norwegian dramedy Maniac.
Co-written by and starring Espen Petrus Andersen Lervaag (All In Las Vegas), Maniac follows the fictional Espen — a thirty-something man who goes from one adventure or out-of-the-ordinary situation to another.
Thing is, they’re all in his mind.
Like, say, Walter Mitty, Espen’s vivid fantasy life is his escape from the real world. But unlike the protagonist in James Thurber’s short story, Espen isn’t the victim of a mere humdrum life or an overbearing wife.
Rather, he has withdrawn into himself, from the world in which he’s a patient in a psychiatric hospital.
A year ago, he was an average guy with a job, a few ex-girlfriends, and the like. So what triggered the sudden change in his mental state?
That’s what psychiatrist Mina (Ingeborg Raustøl, The Heavy Water War) aims to find out.
In the meantime, viewers accompany Espen through both the inside of the hospital and the inside his mind, where his fantasies are inspired by what he encounters in his surroundings.
For example, reading a comic book transforms him into a superhero; watching a documentary about World War II turns Espen and his “friend” Håkon (Håkon Bast Mossige, Den Glade Husmor) into soldiers fighting for Norway’s Resistance movement and Mina into a torturous Nazi; and Hotel Cæsar (the longest-running soap opera in Scandinavia) is the fodder for Espen’s fantastical narrative of the mind, in which characters from the serial become people in his life.
I have a few episodes to go to finish Season 1, but I am loving all that I’ve seen thus far of Maniac. Espen is a sympathetic character, one to cheer; the dialogue between him and Håkon is laugh-out-loud funny; and the blending of Espen’s actual and made-up realities in the narrative is handled deftly.
Produced by Rubicon TV (Lilyhammer, The Third Eye) and featuring Arif Salum (Helt perfekt) and Mats Mogeland (Headhunters), Maniac is currently streaming on Netflix in both the US and UK.
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