Set most emphatically in the House of Fiction, Danish director Christoffer Boe’s debut feature, Reconstruction (winner of the Camera d’Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival), is a romantic adventure that catapults its youthful protag into an alternate universe and dares us to feel for him.
Alex (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is riding the subway with his girlfriend, Simone (Marie Bonnevie), when his eyes lock with those of a beautiful stranger, Aimee (also Bonnevie, as eventually becomes clear). Impulsively, he vaults off the train to follow her into the night. They hook up as if living in the same dream, although the presence of Aimee’s morose husband, August (Krister Henriksson), a writer who intermittently narrates the story, suggests that the affair might also be a figment of his imagination. (Henriksson played a complementary role in Liv Ullman’s not dissimilar Faithless.)
To (unnecessarily) complicate the morning after their night of passion, Alex leaves Aimee and dodges returning August to discover that his apartment has vanished, the neighbors don’t remember him, and—as in the old ’60s thriller Mirage—neither does anyone else. Predicated on chance and cine-magic, Reconstruction‘s quasi-amnesiac tale of love and loss is, as Boe told one interviewer, a “self-aware” text, at once overly free-associational and oppressively solemn. (The frequent application of Pachelbel’s Canon doesn’t lighten the tone.) Copenhagen is a city of chilly darkness, illuminated by little islands of light. The movie’s look is purposefully diffuse—it’s almost seething with grain. Abundant superimpositions emphasize Boe’s sense of film as an imprint.
That Reconstruction is even remotely involving is due to the quality of its acting. Nikolaj Lie Kaas, a graduate of Lars von Trier’s The Idiots, has an adolescent avidity while Marie Bonnevie is heartbreakingly lovely—as Aimee, that is. (The degree to which Aimee’s beauty is a careful construction is intrinsic to the movie’s meaning. Similarly, Bonnevie’s double role gives the sense of a character trying to break free of her narrative.) Thus, Boe is able—barely—to have things both ways. “It is all film,” the narrator concludes. “Even so, it hurts.”