Love, Literature and the Lion: 'Reprise' Follows Budding Writers; 'Prince Caspian' Revisits Fantasy Land
Cunneen, Joseph, Doherty, Kevin, National Catholic Reporter
Reprise is first-time director Joachim Trier's all-encompassing take on youth, love and literature in contemporary Norway. Drawing on a style strongly reminiscent of the French New Wave of the '60s, it focuses on two aspiring 20-something writers and their desperate need to be published. The highs and lows of their progress are presented with such refreshing coolness that the filmmaking process is as intriguing as the story itself.
"Reprise" not only weaves in and out of time, but takes its audience into the worlds of its protagonists' project-ed aspirations and romantic fantasies. It has an uncanny knack of balancing both sadness and jubilation without jarring the audience.
The movie opens with Phillip (Anders Danielson Lie) and his friend Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) standing face to face in front of a mailbox about to send off their manuscripts to publishers. It is a scene that suggests a friendly rivalry. From then on, the action vigorously follows these two writers' lives, including their long-suffering girlfriends, the angry young men who make up their inner circle, and the Scandinavian punk-rock scene.
Their youthful audacity separates them from the tug of the bourgeois world, which they see as a threat to their creative careers. Phillip is first to succeed, but he immediately lapses into acute depression. Erik also gets his novel accepted by an editor, but he too finds success difficult, revealed in his failure to communicate his personal vision on a TV talk show. The struggle of these two young authors finds them asking more questions of themselves than before they were published. And the suicide of a favorite older author, their common early model, ultimately leaves Erik contemplating exile.
The key influence on the Norwegian "Reprise" is Francois Truffaut's 1961 French success "Jules and Jim," which also told a tale of literature and love in a style with a casual feel. But "Reprise" ups the ante by including wonderful scenes, sometimes in black and white, of what life could be like for the group around the authors. As in "Jules and Jim," an omnipotent narrator adds wit and some humor, which counters the film's more somber images.
"Reprise" is at its weakest when depicting women. They play a distinctly subordinate role, either as strikingly beautiful muses, or, in Phillip's case, as nurse and caretaker. The boys' club as a whole openly scorns women, seeing them as an intrusion and distraction from men's literary pursuits. But most of them fall prey quite happily and completely to the charm and lifestyle of women, often quite bourgeois, before the end. …