Billy Gray

Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Reprise

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Reprise begins with Erik (Espen Klauman Hoiner) and Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie), two twenty three year olds standing in front of a mailbox. They are aspiring authors, manuscripts in hand. After dropping their novels in the mail, a fanciful, sped up montage looks into their (imagined) futures: critical adoration, rabid cult audiences, fierce academic debate, doomed romances, African street revolutions triggered by their prose. It’s an amusing aside. But the choppiness that this diversion introduces to the film lingers. These flashy, New Wave indulgences of debut director Joachim Trier threaten to ironically evoke the strained pretensions of the young literary set his solid film gently mocks. Thankfully the pace settles, resulting in a nimble exploration of youth forging an artistic (and adult) identity.

Phillip’s fate briefly approaches the grandiose daydream by the mailbox. His novel is published to some acclaim and decent sales. Erik’s book is rejected, though he harbors little ill will towards his friend. (An Americanized version of this movie, and most likely American writers, would surely revel in such animosity.) Of course, it is a universal truth that fame and success are mixed blessings, so Phillip spirals into a profound depression that ends in a suicide attempt. His fleeting success over and his health on the mend, Phillip returns to Erik and their core group of friends. The film is strongest when examining twentysomething male camaraderie. There is vulgar machismo posing- incapable of healthy relationships, the gang dismisses women as intellectually bankrupt sex objects, cultural one-upmanship (the obscure references come fast and furious), naïve hero worship (of a reclusive, depressed cult author) and relentless binge drinking. There is also their utter dependency on one another, for reasons of sanity and inspiration.

Fortunes shift as Erik writes a book that becomes the latest victim of the publishing hype machine. A vapid talk show host says it is “about madness,” suggesting that Phillip was no small inspiration. Ultimately, neither young writer quite realize their marvelous ambitions. Reprise settles into a minor key as it shows its young characters stumble into adulthood and its attendant compromises: modest goals, quiet accomplishments, generic but happy relationships and the occasional business suit. In short, all the bourgeois trappings the film’s characters initially spurned. Reprise, like the literary strivers it documents, has its faults. There is occasional audience manipulation; several scenes forecast Phillip checking out for good. And a climactic party montage verges on John Hughes territory. But for the most part, Reprise succeeds as a bittersweet homage to youthful talents and indiscretions. It mirrors the success of its protagonists in distilling a lifetime of passions and references into a coherent whole.