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May 29th, 2008

FILM REVIEW: REPRISE.

by Joelle Panisch

Like a menacing dream, Joachim Trier’s Reprise is the racing yet graceful tale of self-actualization. Befitting its Norwegian setting, the film sails between moods as the main characters deal with love, depression, mental illness, ambition, and unfulfillment–all embellished by punk rock undertones. The style is distinctly French New Wave, a throwback to the movement’s originator, Jean-Luc Godard, whose films Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live) and Bande a part (Band of Outsiders) are distinctly reminiscent. Trier seemingly doesn’t fear being labeled unoriginal and in that way Reprise felt refreshingly original. He was able to pay homage to Godard while creating a work that was masterful and unique in its own right.

The film begins as Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) and Phillip (Anders Danielsen Liedrop), lifelong friends and budding writers, drop their manuscripts into a mailbox and bask in a moment of self-aware beginning. They see their successes as brilliant cult writers unfold in a hip fantasy sequence (voiced by unseen narrator Eindride Eidsvoll), only to flash six months ahead and find that things turned out quite differently. Phillip, after receiving notoriety for his controversial but acclaimed novel, has suffered a breakdown and was forced into a psychiatric hospital. Flashes between the past and present show him struggling with his own relevance as he re-engages with moony love interest Kari (Viktoria Winge).

Erik, on the other hand, has lived a steady life since the afternoon at the mailbox. His manuscript since rejected, Erik, handsome and charming, continues his routine (complete with girlfriend, family, and slated punk friends) and eventually finds publishers for his less than enthusiastic manuscript. Unable to settle for the facade of contentment, Erik’s life quietly unravels, but without the excitement or drastic reversal that Philip’s did. The film is a buddy movie as much as anything else since you see Phillip and Erik and their group of indulgent friends maneuver through their youth to the backdrop of Scandinavian punk. The dramatically blank setting of Oslo serves as a delicate contrast to their boyish desires and Philip’s emotional unraveling.

Reprise has so many successes its hard to distinguish where one begins and the other ends. The performances by Klouman-Hoiner and Liedrop will stay with you long after the credits halt. Not to mention the cinematography and modern soundtrack, which seamlessly weave between exalted and muted to lend to the nu-French tone. Trier’s French New Wave style successfully walks the line of classic movie tricks that too often fall to cliches, and for once honors the grandfathers of cinema whose tools have been reduced to procedure. For once a voiceover doesn’t feel like a scheme, but a means.

Ultimately, the story unapologetically declines to offers any answers. That never was the point, though conclusions can be drawn. And as the story of two promising novelists, it is fitting that upon completion the film feels literary, almost poetic.

Filed Under: Arts & Leisure | New York

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