Reprise (2006)

reviewed by
David N. Butterworth


REPRISE
A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2008 David N. Butterworth
*** (out of ****)

Supposedly the Norse play a game in which they cordon off a cow pasture into a chessboard-like grid and bet where the chips will fall.

While borrowing repeatedly from the best of Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Le Fabuleux Destin d'AmĂ(c)lie Poulain") and the Germanic Tom Tykwer ("Run, Lola, Run"), Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier has nevertheless fashioned a most promising first feature with the art house "Reprise."

The film centers on a pair of aspiring young novelists, Phillip and Erik, who are driven by their own competitiveness and the need to succeed. The narrative hops backwards and forwards between their minor successes and their mega failures; their roads less taken, well traveled, and passed up altogether; the influential women in their lives--one Kari and Lillian--and a mutual admiration for the work of reclusive author Sten Egil Dahl.

The literary process, that of having a manuscript crafted, submitted, rebuffed, and actually, eventually accepted for publication, is dissected with much humor and pathos. Trier's approach includes playfully presenting the what-ifs and why-nots much as Tykwer did with Lola as well as playing the numbers game ala AmĂ(c)lie--"Phillip later told Kari he knew they were destined for each other. In ten seconds she would look at him," counting down the seconds to that telling, desirous moment of truth.

It was a time when Joy Division held the country in its maudlin grip and the punk bank Kommune spat out its catchy, unprintable hit in the smoky bars and nightclubs of a bustling, burgeoning Oslo (something about being compromised by a high ranking government official). These were the places where the West Side intelligencia moshed shoulders with the East Side riff-raff and love tore just about everyone who happened to be there apart.

20-year-olds Phillip and Erik flounder dockside with their fast friends Henning, Geir, and "Porno" Lars, the specter of homophobia absolutely absent, their focus on landing that elusive first book contract. Phillip has his work published first but short-term fame carries a heavy, leaden price. Erik, conversely, confronts compromise, criticism, and correction at every turn.

Trier and his co-writer Eskil Vogt examine male identity through a busy palette of cinematic techniques that buoy the boys' intrinsically linked life stories along. They contrast youthful exuberance with the haze of depression, compare lust and love, fantasize gamely, and go to the mat for their protagonists time and time again. The film feels black and white but isn't (not all the time anyway). There's fond narration (from Eindride Eidsvold) and a minimalist score (by Ola Fløttum and Knut Schreiner) in just the right amounts to set the film's offbeat yet affecting tone. Lead performers Anders Danielsen Lie (Phillip) and Espen Klouman-Høine (Erik) are wonderfully natural on camera, as cocky and charismatic as the characters they play.

"Reprise" is all about dreams and disappointments and the choices we make in life but it's mostly about friendships, about how these color our lives without us really knowing it. And as an examination of youth--spent, misspent, and overspent--it's nothing less than a celebration.

-- 
David N. Butterworth, Film Editor
www.offoffoff.com/film | dnb@dca.net

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