Synopsis: In this two-part story collection, a Siamese cat dreaming of a new world and a writer in desperate need of inspiration cross paths with Morpheus. And Calliope.
This bonus Sandman episode adapts Dream Country, the third comic volume’s, first two storylines. Both of which are musings on power’s abuse. We see this through the Siamese cat’s owner’s murder of her kittens. Which inspires her to seek out Morpheus (Tom Sturridge) in the Dreaming to find a way to fight back. As well as through Calliope’s (Melissanthi Mahut) abuse and imprisonment at Erasmus Fry’s (Derek Jacobi) and then Richard Madoc’s (Arthur Darvill) hands. A big theme here is dreams as hope. This comes across in Morpheus’s benediction towards both Calliope and the Siamese cat. Conversely, Richard Madoc is left as a stuttering wreck with no more dreams or novel ideas at the second story’s end. Indeed, the second story paints a horrific picture of Madoc’s slide into villainy and the desire for greater and greater power. Thus ending with him losing everything.
Sandra Oh brought authority to her storyteller cat role. It was great to hear Neil Gaiman as the dead crow in the Siamese cat’s dream. James McAvoy gave a great performance as the human who inspired the other humans to dream the cat utopia out of existence. It must be said that Arthur Darvill REALLY stepped up to the plate as Richard Madoc. Going from awkward to conniving to pathetic to sleazy to angry in less than an hour. Darvill’s facial acting when Morpheus threatens him. As well as his anger at Calliope and pitiful conclusion after losing his dreams. Was incredible.
Melissanthi Mahut showed Calliope’s strength, dignity and subtle anger excellently. As well as her fear and disgust at Madoc. Mahut got some great lines additionally. I loved when she said she was a goddess. Not a possession. Her scenes with Tom Sturridge had great romantic chemistry. Sturridge himself brought really good menace in his scene with Darvill. Additionally, we saw some nice awkwardness from the actor when Morpheus bids farewell to Calliope. Derek Jacobi struck a great balance between Erasmus Fry’s erudition and his nastiness.
The CGI in Calliope was sparse but beautiful. I adored the effects of the Elysian Fields appearing in Calliope’s room when she called upon the Hecatae. This alone was enough to remind us of the Sandman’s top notch production values.
A Dream of a Thousand Cats boasted some great incidental music. The theme that opened the episode really created that homely almost whimsical feeling. Additionally, the music used when the storyteller cat imparted her message really put across the gravity and weight of what she was saying. Moreover, the score when the Siamese cat remembered her lover was absolutely gorgeous. Calliope’s theme music was also fantastic. There was a great creepy theme when Richard Madoc was talking to Nora (Amita Suman) which put across his sly and growing evilness.
Further, the theme when Madoc arrived at Erasmus Fry’s house has that whimsy and darkness which helped establish Fry’s character. There was also a nice theme when Calliope realised that Morpheus had escaped from his prison and could help her. As was the theme when Calliope left her room and attempted to summon Morpheus. Which put across the idea that things were now in motion which couldn’t be stopped. The score when Madoc shouted at Calliope was amazing. On top of that, the closing theme that accompanied Calliope walking away down the street to freedom was also brilliant.
A Dream of a Thousand Cats had great animation. That reminded me of Studio Ghibli. Of particular note was when the cats shrank and the humans grew. Also the beautiful rendition of the bone desert. As well as the animation of Morpheus as a giant dream cat.
A Dream of a Thousand Cats/ Calliope is a great little bonus to the main Sandman series. Showing what Morpheus really represents and why dreams are so important. These two episodes showcase a wealth of talent, from the writing, to the animation, to the acting. Thumbs up from me.
- Incidental Music9.8