Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Youth in Revolt

In the midst of the overcrowded blockbuster season it's always advisable for one to try to seek out something a little smaller, less noisy and thoughtful. The newly released Norwegian Reprise is just such a film. I wouldn't go so far as to call it this summer's Once, but it fulfills a similar niche. Directed by the talented and promising Joachim Trier (probably not related to Lars Von as I actually liked this film)* Reprise is the story of two young friends who submit their manuscripts to a publisher from the same mailbox at the same time. What follows really ought not to be spoiled but of the two, one finds immediate success and is published the other takes a little more time. Though merely being published is hardly the end of the various complications life throws at both young men.

Before the narrative of the film can formally start the audience is launched into a brusque alternative version of what "would" happen had the two. This version of the events is false, but possible. This word "would" comes up again and again in the film as Trier repeats this stylistic move which neatly underlines the world of limitless possibility (or seeming limitless possibility) of young men. The film is aggressively edited and brusquely shot serving as an excellent example of style informing content as it befits the overall restless energy of the film's leads and their clique of angry young men. There is a grand tradition of confused and angry young men in European cinema; I, Viteloni, The 400 Blows and La Haine to name a few. Reprise works as a sort of bourgeois spin on those films and their themes. These nice young men want some intangible quality from life and struggle to find it but ultimately don't know what they're looking for. The success they find leads them wanting more, not any sort of broader satisfaction. To this end the film works well as a character piece. The two leads Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie-think a Norwegian James Franco) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) have a real natural charisma and a sort of naive intelligence.

The film is at it's best when it's staying in the realm of a propulsive portrait of the two men, when it takes on poetic aspirations it flounders a bit. Trier, perhaps uncertain of his own confident storytelling and character building throws in a number of flourishes in the film's third act that don't quite gel with what the audience has seen before. It's not so glaring as to render the film bad, far from it, but it sticks in the craw. Trier even has one of the character's meta-textually comment on his trippy ending. I will be following Mr. Trier's career with interest as he has made a very intriguing alternative to American summer fare. I would eagerly recommend it to those looking to an antithesis for explosions, interested in the world of writing and publishing and to get some sterling insight into the minds of young men.

*JK Lars, we cool though MAN were you dickish to that guy in Five Obstructions.

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