31 May 2008


Directed by: Joachim Trier
Written by: Joachim Trier & Eskil Vogt
Full Credits from IMDb

Grade: A-

Reprise opens with a narrative catalyst most mundane, cinematically: two friends, Anders Danielsen Lie and Espen Klouman-Høiner, drop their unsolicited manuscripts, first novels, into the post. But Trier, a distant relative of Lars von, has no intention of letting his film be so dull; the next reel goes through, what would be if it weren’t cut off, an infinite number of imagined possibilities, narrated in the conditional tense and commented upon by the would-be authors’ animated dust jacket portraits. Dizzyingly circular and endlessly digressive, every visual in Reprise only serves as an excuse to conjure up another—a childhood memory, a fantasized future. In short, the film screams with Godardian playfulness; Georges Delerue’s “Theme de Camille” from Contempt pops up in the first reel not merely for its lush beauty.

Trier’s mad obsession with his subjects matches the characters’ own self-absorption, while the wandering filmmaking reflects the myopia and impermanence with which his characters live their lives. Lie and Klouman-Høiner, as well as their handful of pals, together constitute a quintessential group of young literary friends; they spend their time, or so we’re told, reading and writing, but also possess an almost Apatovian knack for mockingly needling one another. We’re meant to deride both their intellectual pursuits—the modeling of their lives on literary conventions that causes one girlfriend to explode: “you’re such a damn cliché!”—and their abusive prattle as symptoms of their arrested development, though the filmmakers also scorn “growing up,” in the bourgeois sense of settling down—wearing sweaters, throwing white-linen dinner parties. Reprise does not allow its characters to follow an easy arc from puerility to maturity, even questioning the possibility of whether such an arc, simple or difficult, exists.

Instead, Trier offers a meandering film about men meandering for meaning. That’s not intended as insult; Reprise boasts an alluringly, indismissibly romantic world view of scattered pillow-feather revelry, in which writers need hardly spend anytime writing—they simply publish books and, most seductively, hang out with the boys. Like last year’s Superbad, Reprise captures that male yearning for the fraternal bond that dissolves with age, replaced, with ambivalence, by the sexual, female bond. Klouman-Høiner’s novel is about, he pretentiously declares on television, looking for a universal language with which to make sense of the world, reflecting he and his friends’ central problem: that they try to make sense of their lives through books and words, by using their heads. Women, on the other hand, trite as it sounds, use their hearts. Though thoroughly a “(thinking) man’s movie,” Reprise (though not its characters) is unfailingly kind to the fairer sex. Sure, women don’t recommend good books or turn men on to good music, but they’re put together in such a way that allows them to function healthily in a civil society. Too bad the same can’t be said for Lie or Klouman-Høiner. Like Woody Allen at his best (Manhattan), Reprise presents a socio-intellectual class infectiously inviting and yet does so critically, enough so as to prevent any viewer from wanting to join it—just to admire it from afar.

Watch the trailer:

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