Saturday, August 9, 2008

Reprise ****

Director: Joachim Trier
Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman-Høiner
Viktoria Winge, Henrik Elvestad, Sigmund Saeverud, Pal Stokka

Throbbing with life and passion, "Reprise" successfully taps into the feeling of limbo that comes with figuring out what the hell you're going to do with your life.
For twenty something, best friends Erik (Klouman-Høiner) and Phillip (Danielsen Lie), it's becoming writers.
When the film begins they stand in front of a mailbox holding their manuscripts with the hopes of getting published.
Months later, for Phillip the dream has come true, along with instant fame, a complicated relationship with his girlfriend Kari (Winge) and mental disease.
For Erik, rejection has led him to push himself harder and live a low key life that includes a girlfriend (Silje Hagen) he has decided to dump when one of his books is published.
After Phillip is released from a mental institution he decides to stop writing, while Erik begins to get the attention of a publishing house.
If nothing so far sounds original, it's probably because it isn't, but the way in which director Trier delivers the events turns the film into a time bending, mood changing, emotionally challenging account of the twists and turns of life and how a lifetime can be contained in an instant.
The actors are splendid and make you feel as if you're actually watching people who've known each other for years.
Danielsen Lie delivers moving work as the introspective Phillip (think Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate"), he makes obvious that fame isn't something for everyone and that living up to expectations might be worse than a sophomore slump.
The energetic Klouman-Høiner gives Erik an enigmatic edge; you never really know what his intentions are and with the rest of the male cast he brings to life the ties that come with male bonding (including the inherent competitive spirit which can go from healthy to plain vicious).
During one scene he's hanging out at the beach with his friends and is surprised by a woman (Rebekka Karijord) he might work with. After sitting with them for a while and listening as they talk about pranks, make fun of each other and act carelessly, she asks Erik "what are you doing hangoing out with these people?".
He doesn't know what to say and the actor perfectly conveys the feelings of his character. He knows that eventually he will outgrow these friends (and this makes him feel guilty), but he also acknowledges the fact that without his experiences with them, he wouldn't have anything to write about.
Does he owe his art to his friends? Or is his lifestyle preventing him of becoming all he can be?
The screenplay by Trier and Eskil Vogt, is a delightful collage of witty lines, pop culture observations and more traditional "coming of age" moments, that honestly should make this one of the definitive films about life transitions.
It's impossible to watch "Reprise" without wondering about your own life choices and more than once the film will seem to be reading your mind (like the very adolescent notion that the mind is confined by geography).
Erik and Phillip wonder if it's fair to write about life experiences and in one of the film's best scenes Erik is placed under a spotlight that amkes him wonder if his words match his thoughts.
One could very well say that for Trier, the film does the same job: he might have drawn inspiration from his life for it, but it would be a disservice to assume everything is autobiographical.
Or would it? Does art need to come out of some random point in the universe? In this way, the film constantly seems to be writing itself in front of our eyes.
Infused with nouvelle vague spirit, Trier pays obvious homage to Francois Truffaut's "Jules and Jim", but it subtly moves into Alain Resnais territory, especially scenes set in Paris, where the barely there love between Phillip and Kari and the recreation of memories evokes "Last Year at Marienbad".
With a remarkable visual style, obsessed with all the what ifs, might bes and will bes of its characters, Trier does constant flashforwards, flashbacks and everything in between to try and grasp at everything going on in these people's lives.
Because of this, the film turns into a living organism of its own, shaped like one of the characters it talks about. It has a hyperkinetic mood to it that never knows what path to choose, it drags a bit in the middle when it gets melancholic and self conscious, but immediately picks up from this episode by doing what a 23 year old would: getting drunk at a party with LeTigre blasting on the stereo.
Vibrant, sweet spirited, restless and also very cruel, "Reprise" might not always get everything right, but never gives up. For a film about young people, it shines with the maturity its characters lack, but it's never condescending to them.
While other films would send us flying out of this phase with a loving pat on the back and the assurance that everything will turn out for the best, this one doesn't bother, because it knows it can't promise something it won't be able to fulfill.

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