Producer/director/writer Sam “Evil Dead” Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures recently announced that it is making This Man, about an “ordinary guy” who suddenly discovers that people all over the world are seeing him in their dreams. A novel twist: The project may possibly be the first movie ever based entirely on a web site. And while that may seem like even thinner source material than a Ewe Boll film, hear me out, because thisman.org — which is about, as you might expect, a guy that lots of people see in their dreams — is one brain-bendingly bizarre web site.
But before we go on, let me make one thing clear: I have NOT dreamed This Man. And I have had my share of bizarre dreams over the years, starting with the angry gorilla — who, it occurs to me now, looked more like a man in a gorilla suit — who chased me in circles around my house when I was six years old. My wife has even stranger dreams. One night, for example, she bolted upright in the middle of the night in apparent terror. “Werewolves, with guns,” she explained, breathlessly. She hasn’t dreamed This Man either.
But if thisman.org is to be believed, each night hundreds of people in various places around the world do dream about him. Not that This Man is exactly dreamy. He’s got a low, simian-like forehead and an early Zero Mostel comb-over, Frida Kahlo’s single eyebrow, oversized ears. And his face displays an inscrutable, vaguely disturbing half-grin, as if he just got done watching the DVD of Eraserhead for the umpteenth time, and he’s prepared to tell what the screaming mutant baby actually symbolizes. But he doesn’t. Instead, he’s just there in the sketch, looking at you like that, until you want to say, For the love of God, make him stop. As the website explains:
We’re told that the website’s purpose is to help people who’ve seen This Man to connect and make sense of their common experience. To that end, it contains what supposedly are accounts of dreams featuring This Man. An example:
Here’s the weirdest, though:
The web site offers a downloadable flyer, which visitors are encouraged to print and post in their hometowns, and explores various theories about why This Man supposedly is appearing in so many people’s subconscious revelries. The latter range from speculation that he is a Jungian archetype or a religious vision, to the possibility that he is a “dream surfer” — that is,
One theory that isn’t explored is the possibility that This Man — who, incidentally, now has his own Facebook account — is an ingenious hoax, perpetrated by an Italian viral marketing firm. As io9.com’s Annalee Newitz first pointed out, thisman.org is registered to Andrea Natella, an Italian sociologist and creative director of guerrillamarketing.it. The English translation of its home page explains that the firm
The web site describes one such project, a fake UFO sighting that it supposedly staged in 2001 in Emilia-Romagna, a region along the Adriatic sea, to spur tourism. I must confess that I have no idea whether this pseudo-event itself actually ever occurred, since there doesn’t seem to have been any coverage of it in the English-language media, and the database of sightings at the Italian UFO Network web site is lamentably incomplete. (I did find a few nifty photos of alleged crop circles in Emila-Romagna, circa 2007, though.) A pseudo pseudo event, perhaps? The possibility is truly mind-boggling.
It’s not readily apparent what, if anything, Thisman.org is attempting to peddle clandestinely. Canadian tabloid journalist Thane Burnett reports that in an email, Natella chided him for questioning the site’s authenticity, and ended with:
That leads me to ponder another question. If This Man’s face and meme were disseminated widely enough — and the Internet’s reach certainly makes that possible — would it be possible to implant the notion in people’s minds, and cause them to actually dream about This Man? According to Erika Fromm’s and Ronald E. Shor’s 2006 book, Hypnosis: Research Developments and Perspectives, hypnotism researchers first demonstrated back in the 1960s that it was possible to induce a trance in a subject and then use hypnotic suggestibility to influence the content of the person’s subsequent dreams. We’ll talk more about this phenomenon, and whether it might be possible to do it on a large scale, in a future blog post.