An intriguing idea for a play translates to the screen as stiffly mannered in Jonathan Wyche’s “Planet Ibsen,” which attempts to burrow inside the head of 19th century playwright August Strindberg, wracked with jealousy and spite for rival dramatist Henrik Ibsen. A literary “Twilight Zone” conceit spurs initial interest, but pic’s surrealist dalliances only reinforce the stage-bound sense of the material, while thesping seldom rises to the psychological demands of Ibsen’s and Strindberg’s work. While offering fests a programming curiosity, item will be lucky to manage vid or cable sales.
Convinced his marriage (seen in flashback) was destroyed by the premiere of Ibsen’s success de scandale, “A Doll’s House,” Strindberg (an affecting Steve Dumouchel) imagines being not only inside the home of Ibsen (a miscast Clint Howard), but inside “Doll’s House” itself. By trying to rewrite what he considers an abomination that allows women to reject their husbands, Strindberg somehow believes he can restore his past private life. Both Wyche’s direction and script are unable to transform the big ideas behind the film’s concept into something more than an exercise in literary arguments.