Now Showing at: The Esquire Theatre, in Norwegian with English subtitles
Review by: Larry Thomas
Films about the Generation X-ers have pretty much been limited to lame, smutty, not-particularly-funny, American-made comedies designed to elicit an occasional giggle, and turn unknowns into stars. Norwegian director Joachim Trier, a distant cousin of the heralded filmmaker Lars Von Trier, has made Reprise, which is not a comedy, although there is humor in it. If you were to give it the “high concept” comparison, it’s like a John Hughes film as made by Ingmar Bergman.
Erik and Phillip are two fast friends with a competitive edge. They both aspire to be successful writers. They hang out with their cadre of buddies in Oslo to drink, party, and just generally be young 20-somethings. They love punk rock, and the brother of one of the buds is the lead singer in a popular band. They both have girlfriends, and seem to be having a normal life.
Then Erik and Phillip submit their manuscripts to a publisher at the same time. Erik is published. Phillip is told he has no talent, and through a series of life-altering events, flips out and spends some time in a mental hospital.
Trier has command of his filmmaking style, and all the performers are really good in their roles. The problem is the narrative, which is all over the place, like an artist who abstractly spray paints a canvas with seltzer bottles full of different colors of paint. There is the current story, there are flashbacks to younger days, and there are flash-forwards showing how the characters would like to see situations resolved. The imagined alternative story lines are in black and white with voice over narration, so as not to confuse the viewer too much.
But even with trying to keep as much cohesiveness as possible within the framework of the director’s use of time and narrative, it’s still a hard film to sit through. Some scenes seem to last forever, while others are far too short, giving Reprise a feeling of having been heavily edited, but not necessarily in the right places. As there’s not enough information given about any of the principals, in many instances they seem just like characters moving about as characters instead of real people.
Some of the songs used on the soundtrack are very good, and since not too many Norwegian films make it to the US, it’s nice to see Oslo. Plus, any film hip enough to evoke the name of the late, great movie schlockmeister Russ Meyer gets an extra check mark for hipness.
So, in the end, do we really care about these characters and their trials? No, not really. But it may be an age thing. Perhaps an audience of Erik and Phillip’s peers could relate to their lives. And that’s one of the main problems: the indended audience generally won’t go to see subtitled films, and the older audience that does will be generations, if not light years, away, from Erik and Phillip and company.