- Rated R
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All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Bob Westal
here’s a truism that while many movies have writers as main characters, no film can really show the process of writing. Indeed, the two main characters in this clever, moving, sincere and extremely well-made and very meta literary coming-of-age tale from Norway seem to spend relatively little time at their PCs. Still, director Joachim Trier does as good a job as any film I can think of when it comes to exploring the interactive properties of creativity, friendship, psychology and testosterone.
“Reprise,” co-written with Joachim Trier’s real-life writer friend, Eskil Vogt, starts out with two young, slightly spoiled, aspiring high-grade literary authors and best friends contemplating a mailbox. A narrator tells us that if both manuscripts had been accepted at the same time, certain events would have happened. However, what happens in this particular story is that only the manuscript of the quieter and, it turns out, more psychologically fragile, Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) is accepted, while the more stable and gregarious Erik (Espen Klouman-Høiner) is sent back to the drawing board.
This proves a difficult turn of events. Sure, there’s a slight dash of well-hidden jealousy in the mix, but that’s the least of it. A bit of minor fame starts to stress out Phillip, but that’s nothing compared to the effect of his relationship with his new girlfriend, Kari (Victoria Winge), which gets most of the blame when he suffers a mental breakdown. It’s not Kari’s fault. Her worst visible fault is being completely adorable, but something about Phillip’s need for her may have triggered the breakdown, and she is forcibly separated from him.
Meanwhile, Erik’s fortunes improve and, when he finally manages to sell his novel, he has to deal with some important life choices while also trying to help his all-but disabled buddy – like whether or not staying with his present girlfriend (Silje Hagen) makes him less cool and what about that awesome junior editor/grad student he keeps running into (Rebekka Karijord). In other words, just because they’re intellectuals doesn’t make these guys geniuses in their personal lives, or even slightly mature. In fact, Erik and Phillip are actually part of a gang of guys who are, as a group, not particularly good-natured. The group includes “Porno Lars” (the very funny Christian Rubeck), an idiotically blunt misogynist, drunk on too much Nietzsche, who lectures regularly on the intellectual energy-sapping evils of girlfriends.
There’s a good reason that “Reprise” is the easily the most prominent film from Norway since the 1997 original version of “Insomnia:” it’s a witty and moving drama about young male friendships that steers an excellent middle course between traditional guy-movie macho male bonding and icky sentimentality. “Reprise” has excited critics with its clever updating of the stylistic flourishes of such ‘60s New Wave classics as Francois Truffuat’s “Jules and Jim” and Richard Lester’s “A Hard Day’s Night.” I would add Fellini’s lesser-known ‘50s gem, the group-of-guys tragicomedy “I Vitellone” (a direct ancestor of Barry Levinson’s “Diner”) to the list as well. Slightly less cinematically obsessive viewers, however, might see this as a fairly arty, literary, more sensitive punk rock take on “Diner” and possibly even “Swingers,” with a generous de-heroined dash of “Trainspotting” and a gimmick or two on loan from “Run, Lola, Run.” And they’d be just as right. Still, when a young filmmaker’s work has so many possible sources, it’s usually not so much evidence of lack of ideas – it’s evidence of passion.
I should mention, however, that “Reprise” is not quite as lively or fast-paced as some of its influences. It’s got a slightly dour, typically Nordic cast to it, as it deals with the issue of love, madness and the unpleasant side effects of male competitiveness. Don’t worry, while “Reprise” is a pretty far cry from Judd Apatow, Norwegian or not, we’re not really in Henrik Ibsen territory here either -- nor is this any kind of male weeper in the usual sense. (For one thing, nobody’s a pro athlete and no one dies of cancer.) In its somewhat quiet way, it’s a lot more fun and a lot less obsessive than “Insomnia.”
In any case, perhaps the greatest of director Joachim Trier’s achievements here lay in getting such wonderfully non-self-conscious performances from a cast of newcomers, some of whom were acting onscreen for the very first time. Certainly, the chemistry between leading dudes Anders Danielsen Lie and Espen Klouman-Høiner is remarkable; this is by far the most purely believable onscreen friendship in memory. Given that actors whose native tongue is Nordic-derived can segue pretty seamlessly into American English language roles (for example, the Danish Rutger Hauer and the Afrikaans-speaking Charlize Theron), the only thing standing in the way of English-language careers for these two are their hard-to-say names. Fortunately, the talented and (I repeat myself) completely adorable and more or less pronounceable Viktoria Winge shouldn’t even have that problem.
Single Disc DVD Review: Miramax has included 50 minutes of pretty interesting behind-the-scenes features here, including detailed interviews with participants and occasionally funny deleted scenes and outtakes. Some will no doubt focus on a section dealing with the filming of a crucial nude sex scene between Anders Danielsen Lie and (trying to keep my tone even) Viktoria Winge. Once again we learn that emotional love scenes are hard work. But mainly, we see the secret reason that the central onscreen friendship in “Reprise” comes across as so genuine: it’s pretty clearly derived from the actual long-term friendship between director Joachim Trier and co-writer Eskil Vogt.