Reprise: A Beautiful Riff
Joachim Trier's dazzlingly kinetic tale of two aspiring Norwegian cult novelists is bounded by fantasies of what might have become of the friends and literary competitors after the publication of their first novels. But the entire film plays out in the conditional tense, a bold experiment in narrative and style that in less passionate or skilled hands might well have ended up as the wank that so many pomo novice filmmakers, drunk on technique and existential bombast, have to get off their chests before they give up or get down to business. Indeed, Reprise—whose splintered form organically mirrors the mental life of its young protagonists and their crowd, lovers of punk bands, cult novelists, and Henry James—is precisely about the tension between alienation and belonging, ambition and pretension, the chasm between dreams and reality. Trier, who's distantly related to that other adventurous Trier (Lars von), doesn't want you "making sense" of the ups and downs of sensitive, tragic Phillip and goofy, perennially smiling Erik, played respectively by doctor/musician Anders Danielsen Lie and advertising copywriter Espen Klouman-Hoiner. But Reprise—a masculine story whose women come off best—is less a hermeneutic finger in your face (though it aims wonderfully low blows at literary celebrity) than a savage, funny, tender, tragic, and strangely beautiful riff on growing up in a broken world.
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