01 September 2009

The Decade List: Reprise (2006)

Reprise - dir. Joachim Trier

[Again, this is a slightly modified version of an older post. I will be contributing more new pieces on films this month. I've been busying myself with doing work for the local film festival, which has taken up a big portion of my time (satisfyingly). So forgive me, those of you who've already read this.]

Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Høiner) have been best friends since childhood, bonded together by their love of literature. Both aspired to become writers, and Reprise opens as the two friends, now in their early 20s, drop their novels into the mail, anxiously awaiting word from the prospective publisher. Writer/director Joachim Trier, a distant relative of Lars Von Trier, then takes us into the troubling effects the publication of Phillip’s novel takes on the two men, treading on territory that’s deceptively familiar. Phillip’s publication, in addition to his intensely passionate relationship with Kari (Viktoria Winge), causes a spiral of mental illness, attempted suicide and disillusionment, which lands him in a mental hospital for the better part of a year. Reprise isn’t just a chronicle of ambitious youth in modern day Norway (though it really could have been set anywhere; Trier stated that several critics called his film very un-Norwegian), but an alarming fantasy that cleverly disrupts stylistic and narrative clichés in ways deeply poignant and unsettling.

The opening moments of Reprise are rather off-putting. A narrator quickly summarizes the events leading up to Phillip and Erik’s completion of their novels and brazenly suggests scenarios which would likely follow, from casual affairs, critical response and a Parisian locale for the completion of their further works. However, each time the film adheres to these annoying motifs, Trier deflects the artifice abruptly. These fantasies become juxtaposed (I hate that word) with a harsh reality. Both instant success and an inability to deal with his first serious relationship render Phillip unable to deal with the world around him; the suggestion that Erik is talentless moves him into a state of monotony, both in his personal and romantic lives. In a way, Trier is criticizing these “hip” cinematic bells-and-whistles, bringing a grounded truth in to offset the gloss.

However, the motifs serve as the tragic fantasy of Reprise. The film, both in its fantastical elements and otherwise, exists in a world of ideals. Phillip and Erik make up two members of a no-girls-allowed brotherhood of rouge intellectuals, who spend their days reading and dissecting art and literature. The group is so exclusive that Erik is scared to bring his girlfriend Johanne around; for most of the film, Trier doesn’t even show us her face. One member of the group, Lars (Christian Rubeck), goes on a misogynistic rant about the defeating nature of men falling into a relationship, relinquishing their intellectual spirit for the mundane. “How many girls have actually introduced you to a worthwhile music group?” he poses. “If they have, it’s likely that it was someone their father, brother or ex-boyfriend listened to. And how many girls have introduced you to books that you didn’t already read in high school?” It’s an alarming statement, but Lars' assessment isn't one that's supported by the film. All of the women in Reprise are far richer than Lars’ cynical statements would suggest, but Trier never makes a point to align the film with any of the characters' singular beliefs or claims.

The motifs then project the further installment of the fantasy, in which young artists get backing, move to Paris and go down in history. Reprise is rather astute in dispelling these fantasies, though it does bring suggestion that literary publication in a less common language would prove to be easier than trying in English or French, languages spoken outside of their native country. It’s perfectly bittersweet and utterly assured from its first-time director. It’s not often that one gets to say, “every time you think the director is making the wrong move in his film, he quickly dismisses this and gives you more than what you bargained for.”

With: Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman-Høiner, Viktoria Winge, Odd Magnus Williamson, Pål Stokka, Christian Rubeck, Henrik Elvestad, Henrik Mestad, Rebekka Karijord, Sigmund Sæverud
Screenplay: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Cinematography: Jakob Ihre
Music: Ola Fløttum, Knut Schreiner
Country of Origin: Norway
US Distributor: Miramax Films

Premiere: 3 July 2006 (Karlovy Vary Film Festival)
US Premiere: January 2007 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Best Film, Best Direction, Best Screenplay (Amanda Awards, Norway); Best Director, Don Quijote Award (Karlovy Vary Film Festival); Discovery Award (Toronto International Film Festival)


Nina said...

I absolutely loved this movie. The plot and the way the story goes was unique. I'm really looking forward to see more movies from this director

Joe said...

Yes! I haven't heard anything about Trier's follow-up. I'm very much looking forward to it.