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Reprise (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 8, 2023

REPRISE (2008)

Starring Espen Klouman-Høiner, Anders Danielsen Lie, Sigmund Sæverud, Viktoria Winge, Silje Hagen, Henrik Elvestad, Christian Rubeck, Odd Magnus Williamson, Rebekka Karijord, Henrik Mestad, Thorbjorn Harr and Pål Stokka.

Screenplay by Joachim Trier.

Directed by Joachim Trier.

Distributed by Miramax Pictures. 105 minutes. Rated R.

Reprise is a film about first-time novelists which sort of feels like it was also written by a first-time novelist.

This is both a good attribute and bad.

In the good category: it has passion, is intelligent, is visually arresting, is romantic (about literature and friendship – though not really love), has a love of books and the written and spoken word, is somewhat idealistic, smart and trying desperately to be artistically pure.

In the bad category: it is kind of self-indulgent, its characters are not as intriguing as they should or could be, the film doesn't seem to understand how immature and sometimes unlikeable these guys are, and it's trying desperately to be artistically pure.

It turns out that this, indeed, is the first feature film by Danish filmmaker Joachim Trier. He is related to the talented-but-notoriously self-indulgent director Lars von Trier (Dogville, Dear Wendy) – though they make a point of saying in a press kit that they are distantly related.

As a first film, Reprise shows great promise, though it can sometimes be a little frustrating.

This Norwegian film – shot mostly in Oslo with some side trips to Paris – tells the story of two young men of 23 who have aspirations to literary greatness. In fact, the prologue – in which the Erik (Espen Klouman-Høiner) and Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) slip their manuscripts into a mailbox and the film quickly runs through a catalogue of their expectations... good and bad... of what life has in store for them as members of the literati – is a compact and stunning bit of filmmaking.

The film reaches these heights again periodically, but too often the film becomes much more earthbound.

It turns out Phillip is good enough to sell his novel right away, while Erik has to continue toiling after rejection to eventually also be published. The irony is, while Phillip may have more pure talent, he is also mentally unstable and can't handle his new cult stardom and becomes obsessive about Kari (Viktoria Winge), a local girl he took to Paris – eventually getting committed. Even when he is released from the hospital, he is obviously seriously damaged. For example, when his mother removes all the pictures of the Paris trip with Kari for fear that they will set off a relapse, Phillip convinces the girl to go back to Paris with him. He sets it up so that they go on the same dates, stay at the same hotel, go to the same cafés and retake the same pictures – in a sequence which is much creepier than it is romantic.

The less-talented Erik eventually sells his book as well – and he is much more emotionally prepared for the notoriety which publishing brings. Of course, part of this may be due to the fact that Erik's book is released to much more muted acclaim. However, the two idolize a reclusive local author (Sigmund Sæverud) – who appears to pop up an awful lot for a recluse – and the aging author tells Erik that he read his book and it shows great promise until the end when he tries to be too poetic.

Erik also has a girlfriend, a blonde beauty named Lillian (Silje Hagen) who he spends most of the film avoiding or debating whether or not to break up with. However, we can't really get a handle on the relationship or a rooting interest for them, because the film doesn't care for her any more than Erik does – in fact we do not even get a good look at her face until her final scene, when she finally has had enough and dumps him. Before that, she is shot mostly from the back or looking away from the camera.

Other than this, Erik and Phillip go to parties, hang out with their childhood friends (most of whom seem to be kind of assholes), go to concerts and deal with typical early-twenties angst.

Reprise was obviously inspired by the French new wave films of Truffaut, Lelouch, Resnais and Godard. As an inspiration, it's a good place to go, though Reprise captures the look and feel of the films without quite attaining their symbolic power and depth of feeling.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2008 All rights reserved. Posted: August 31, 2008.


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