Of all the new releases and rental films that I watched this year the one that stood out the most was Joachim Trier’s Reprise (2006). It came highly recommended by a friend who has exceptional taste in all manner of things and, given my high expectations, could have easily been a disappointment. Fortunately, I was blown away. If I really enjoy a film by a particular director, I immediately attempt to consume their entire body of work; however, as Reprise is Trier’s debut feature I wasn’t able to seek out any other films. Rather, it gave me an excuse to watch Reprise again – an experience that confirmed the amazing vision of this Norwegian film.
I wanted to do a love scene that was complicated and was saying something about a relationship. Mostly in movies when people have sex it’s just a fulfilment of love and then they cut away, but I wanted to show a break down of a relationship in that bedroom, a really sad and complicated scene and with two inexperienced actors we worked a lot on that….I definitely want people to be allowed to feel different things, that’s a big thing for me, not to just go out and say well I felt that same kind of happiness or sadness that they felt from other movies. You almost wish when you make a film that people will have a contradictory emotional experience. I’m interested in the ambivalence that people will feel that AAH what a character did was right but was also wrong!
It is not an easy task to succinctly encapsulate the genre and themes of Reprise. Following the successes, exploits and emotional disturbances of two young, aspiring writers (Anders Danielsen Lie and Espen Klouman-Høiner), the film explores identity, madness, love, desire, marginal subcultures and contemporary urban malaise. Trier placed Reprise in the coming-of-age genre and even went so far as to draw a link to American Pie (1999). Sequences of male bonding aside, Reprise lends to a far more subtle, intricate and challenging viewing experience that deals not only with sex, but also with larger issues of relationships.
Stylistically, the film displays a cinephilic appreciation of the French New Wave by appropriating the omniscient voice-over narrative style from François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962). Using narration as both a thematic and cinematic device beautifully threads together the film’s central concern of using writing to frame identity, as well as working to successfully guide the viewer through the story’s shifting temporalities and emotional states. Trier’s interest in constructing a state of ambivalence and uncertainty for the viewer is reflected in the subdued and drained chromatic scheme in which each colour never quite reaches its optimum vibrancy.
The male protagonists have been criticised for being sexist, immature and bourgeois; however, Reprise unashamedly captures the liminal and precarious period between youth and adulthood when chaos can be an overriding and persistent state of being. Conversely, there is something quite touching and fragile about the unfolding story, and that is ultimately what makes Reprise such a great film, as it locates moments of pause in its shambolic oscillations. Not quite finding a balance between disorder and delicacy, Reprise is an excellent example of considered symbiosis between textural and visual storytelling.