One thing that drives people is the quest to follow their dreams. We all have had aspirations to be someone famous or to at least work in a field that we are respected and well considered. For most of us the dreams inevitably give way to the reality of earning a living and raising a family. While most of us do not have regrets about our decision to trade stability for dreams there is always a lingering ‘what if’ that lurks in the deepest corner of our minds. It is this nagging feeling that Norwegian film maker Joachim Trier taps into with ‘Reprise’. He looks at two young men who both aspire to become novelists. This is a deeply emotional character study that is gripping. One thing that has to be remembered by audiences here in the States is this is a movie that has been tempered by a different cultural perspective. While this changes the manner in which the story is told it does not impact the underlying concept or the development of the characters. ‘Reprise’ is a stunning film that is incredible to watch. If you have any reservations about watching a foreign film this is the one that will get you over it. It will also demonstrate to the non foreign film buff that there are different ways to tell a story then the typical Hollywood style that most of us are so accustomed to watching. The shame is most people are not able to go to a film festival and local art house theaters are giving way at a ever increasing rate to make way for multiplexes. This means that the only way most American audiences can find a quality film like this is with a DVD. Thankfully, Miramax, a division of Buena Vista, has released this film on disc. If you haven’t done so already this is a perfect opportunity to broaden your appreciation of the art of cinema. This is not a Hollywood block buster and was never intended to be one. It is a profoundly moving film that deserves as wide an audience as possible.
The film was written by Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier. Both are relatively new to film making but are making a fantastic start here. They have previously worked together on a couple of short films typically with Trier directing as he does here. The genius to this screenplay is how it takes off from a very simple premise. The story is concerned with a pair of aspiring authors living in Oslo. Both men submit their manuscripts at the same time; one is ultimately accepted while the other is rejected. If you give this a moment to consider this is a perfect set up for a psychological drama about hopes and dreams. It creates natural means to contrast and compare two diverging lives as the men strive to achieve what they long for. What the audience is treated to is a in depth look at the aftermath of success and failure. Normally you think that the man who becomes successful would experience a flight of excess before the crash we all know is coming. We would also expect that the one failing would become immediately despondent but even in this part of the story the writers here have some twists up their sleeves that will pull in the audience. This is such an atypical treatment of a story we have all seen so many times before that credit must be given for originality. At its heart this is a story of contrasts. It compares hope and frustration; success and failure along with dreams and reality. The story does this with a great deal of sensitivity and grace. An American movie would tend to become gritty and harsh in order to pound the points home. These writers go for a slower development of the plot lines and character arcs. This is not to say the film is slow moving; it isn’t by any means. It is just that the story unfolds in such a way that the audience is given an opportunity to assimilate what is going on. There is also intelligence to their writing that is usually not found in a script concerning two men in their early twenties. These are two very well read men who are not afraid to expect the audience to understand what they are trying to do.
As the director of this film it is almost difficult to believe that this is Trier’s first feature length film. He has a command of the screen that is amazing and wonderful to witness. While the story is paced for understanding the film moves forward at a good clip. This may sound strange but here it works. Trier apparently was a national skateboarding champion and this is well reflected in his style of direction. He gets right into the premise without the need to build up to it. From there he shows a montage of the dreams the two protagonists have for their futures. This leads to how reality creeps into those dreams. He covers decades of time in a giant stride but the audience never gets the feeling of being rushed. Trier succeeds in managing jumps in the time line better than most directors. He seamlessly transitions between past, present and future without losing the narrative of the story or muddling the character development.
Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Høiner) are young men in their early twentie; both aspiring novelist who are passionate about their chosen professions. At the start of the film both men are shown at the same mailbox. They are dropping off their first manuscripts hoping to be published. The future they anticipate is shown in a montage of the future. They are both published and gather a cult following of fans. They drift apart somewhat and have some affairs followed by a trip to Paris. They meet again after some years and co-author a book that sets off a revolution in a far away country. After we see the fantasy played out reality sets in for the two authors. Phillip’s book is published but Erik’s work is rejected. While Erik manages to deal well with this initial set back Phillip is not so fortunate. He gains some instant fame but that only leads to a nervous breakdown that puts him in a mental hospital. The lives of both men are shown through their group of mutual friends. Both have girlfriends. Erik is seeing Lillian (Silje Hagen) but has what is commonly called commitment issues. He tries his best to keep her away from anything that might result in a connection to his friends. Phillip’s girlfriend Kari (Viktoria Winge) is more obsessive. She is also at least partially blamed for Phillip’s breakdown.
For all the simplicity of the basic story this is a complex character study that is an excellent example of what an independent film maker can do. It is the kind of film that is not created to make some studio a large sum of money. This is obviously a film that came from the love of the cast and crew for their respective crafts. There is a passion depicted here that carries the audience along. It reaches us on a level that cannot help but touch us. Thankfully Miramax provides a means to watch films like this. They are a great source for little movies like this so take full advantage of what they have to offer.