RETRO REVIEW: Reprise (2006)

Phillip and Erik get ready to submit the manuscripts for their debut novels in Joachim Trier’s REPRISE — PHOTO: Nordisk Film.

Directed by Joachim Trier — Screenplay by Joachim Trier & Eskil Vogt.

The Danish-born Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier has quickly made a name for himself over the years with films such as his three Oslo films, the first of which I’m reviewing in this article, and right now he is one of the hottest directors in all of Scandinavia next to Ruben Östlund (The Square), the Swedish auteur, and Thomas Vinterberg (Jagten), the Danish co-creator of the Dogme-movement. Already with his first film, Joachim Trier — not to be confused with the Danish auteur (and other co-creator of the aforementioned Dogme-movement), Lars Von Trier, even though they are supposedly distant relatives — shows signs that suggest the Norwegian director is something special. So much raw talent is already there to be seen and admired.

After a string of shorts, Trier’s feature-length directorial debut, Reprise, was released in 2006. Reprise, mostly set in Oslo, Norway (hence it is the first in the Oslo film trilogy), follows two best friends and rivaling budding authors, Phillip (played by Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (played by Espen Klouman Høiner), as they try to get their debut books published and test out their ideas and ideals about the great big world in their early twenties. Philip immediately finds more success than Erik, who is momentarily comforted by knowing his ceiling, whereas Phillip’s innate talents make him a literary star seemingly overnight. But then real life begins, and, when their ideas are challenged, one of them finds inspiration while the other struggles to find his footing as he figures out that it isn’t all that easy to recreate the experiences that he wants to hold onto.

An excellent early twenties coming-of-age portrait, Reprise is concerned with so many things and yet never feels overstuffed. Trier captures something extremely relatable. It all feels so authentic, even though one character’s psychosis may be a little bit out there. The film feels particularly concerned with this idea of breaking through and making life what you always dreamt it up to be. Creative ambitions, escaping Oslo, and not being just one of many. But you can’t control other people. You can’t control life. And once you reach your goal, what comes next? Those are just some of the things on Trier’s mind here, and he communicates the inner feelings of the main characters’ and their larger friend group (the film had its finger on the pulse when it comes to toxic masculinity and locker room talk in male friend groups) in interesting and inventive ways that showcase an early mastering of form.

There are so many wild and wonderful things about this film. There is something naturally youthful about the beginning of the film and the way the unreliable narrator has this almost explosive way of conjuring up what may happen down the line for our ambitious main characters. It’s almost a stream of consciousness. I was struck by how Trier brought us into the emotional lives of his main characters and that right there is just one of many astute and intelligent touches in the film.

The film isn’t straightforward chronologically, rather it is put together in a way that is emotionally informative. There are moments when we can clearly see characters imagine how the moment they are in isn’t exactly how they want it to be — something has changed with them — and it isn’t just through the film’s actors (and they are good) but it’s also in the way the film will cut from what’s happening to some happy memory or wish and then cut back again. There is a playful but maybe slightly overused countdown clock, that mostly plays well in the film but which is also a part of the film’s ambiguous ending. Shots are framed in a way so that we very rarely see the face of Erik’s longtime girlfriend, and why is that? Well, to put viewers into Erik’s headspace. He isn’t considering her feelings at that moment. He doesn’t see her. Trier’s film is constantly concerned with putting us into his characters’ heads that one conversation between Phillip and his ex-girlfriend Kari has been edited in a way so that the sound doesn’t match what we’re seeing. Perhaps things don’t match because they are on different wavelengths?

Joachim Trier’s feature-length debut is wildly impressive and outrageously good. I wouldn’t say that I have any major problems with the film, though I think the ambiguous ending could’ve been more effective. Instead, I could go on and on about how intelligently made this film is, but I’ll end with this: It might be one of the most assured debuts I’ve seen from a Scandinavian filmmaker.

9 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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