Dir. Joachim Trier. Norway. 2006.

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“I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience…” - James Joyce

Have you ever seen a movie and wondered afterwards, “what would have happened if…” or “how would it have turned out if …?” The immensely talented Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st) does the wondering for us in his intelligent, innovative, and highly entertaining Reprise. Using a fractured narrative that is awash in flashbacks, flash-forwards, and imaginative fantasies, the film moves with a dazzling rush of energy, propelling us into the world of aspiring writers Erik Høiaas (Espen Kloumer-Hoinen) and Phillip (Anderson Danielsen Lie), both in their twenties. While Reprise has its quiet moments of contemplation, it mostly moves at an energizing pace, displaying images from each character's past and examining a stream of potential outcomes in an alternate universe.

As the two friends stand in front of a mailbox ready to mail the manuscript of their first novel to potential publishers, an unidentified narrator (displayed in italics) speculates about what might happen in certain situations, presumably reflecting the imaginings of each character. In their minds, the novels become so successful that they have worldwide repercussions. They are banned by the Vatican, cause disillusionment in the Dalai Lama, and create a revolution in an East African country. When we at last return to reality, Erik's novel titled “Prosopopoeia” is rejected while Phillip's work is published and he achieves recognition as a major young talent.

Phillip falls deeply in love with Kari (Viktoria Winge), a glowing part-time student and salesperson, and they visit Paris together in a trip so perfect that they attempt to recreate it later in the film, but little of the original magic remains. Unable to handle fame, Phillip attempts suicide and lands in a psychiatric hospital, his doctor attributing his breakdown to his obsessive love for Kari, a cause that prompts his mother to remove all pictures of Kari from Phillip's room. Phillip recovers but his mental health remains fragile, flying high one minute and immersed in despair the next. Meanwhile, Erik continues to work on his novel which is finally published, but when it receives some negative reviews, and a TV interview goes badly, he likewise teeters on the brink of losing control.

Reprise has many ups and downs and, at times, seems to go overboard in its attempt to be clever, but it has a charm and wit that keeps us engaged throughout and we never doubt the humanity of the characters. Lie in particular is a very expressive actor and the pained look on his face (even when he's smiling) creates a lot of empathy. His game of counting down from ten to zero conjures up various scenarios from possible suicide to a breakthrough into another realm of being, but we are left to guess what he has in mind. Through it all, the friends support each other even in the most difficult times. Reprise is not only a film about letting go of illusions, but also about the tortuous path of the creative process. A Scandinavian “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” Reprise is a coming of age film with a difference.



Howard Schumann

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