"Reprise" reps an impressive debut for young Norwegian Joachim Trier, helmer of several well-received shorts. Pic plays inventive variations on classic French and contempo Euro film themes as two aspiring novelist friends in Oslo struggle with their craft, madness and romantic angst.
Effervescent, if somewhat baggy in structure, dramedy “Reprise” reps an impressive debut for young Norwegian Joachim Trier, helmer of several well-received shorts. Pic plays inventive variations on classic French and contempo Euro film themes as two aspiring novelist friends in Oslo struggle with their craft, madness and romantic angst. Pic’s appealing cast of mostly non-pro and unknown thesps, playful directing style and hip soundtrack choices should play sweet music on domestic cash registers, but will need kudos and strong critical support to reprise the trick offshore.
With its tricky use of voiceover and flashbacks, quickfire editing style and Nordic urban setting, pic’s initial reels bring to mind the pyrotechnics of Danish helmer Christoffer Boe (“Reconstruction,” “Allegro”) but without the smugness or the sci-fi elements.
But as film settles into its groove, and its characters decamp for jaunts in Paris, a more Gallic flavor comes through, redolent of the breeziness of early Francois Truffaut (especially “Jules et Jim,” an acknowledged touchstone here), as well other more recent French pics focusing on bright, young, arty things, such as Olivier Assayas’ “Late August, Early September.”
Best friends since childhood Erik (Espen Klouman Hoiner from “Just Bea”) and Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) have been bursting with literary ambition ever since they discovered a shared passion as teens for the reclusive novelist Sten Egil Dahl (Sigmund Saeverud). Both send off novels in the opening sequence, and a voiceover describes fates that might have happened to them if both their books had been successes.
But, only Phillip’s book is accepted for publication and becomes a critical hit. However, excessive media attention and a near psychotic obsession he develops over his g.f. Kari (wide-eyed beauty Viktoria Winge) send him round the bend and into a mental hospital.
Once he’s released, Phillip struggles to readjust to everyday living, and tries to take up again with a wary Kari. Sequence covering the couple’s bittersweet vacation in Paris reps one of pic’s most emotionally rich passages.
Meanwhile, the less interesting Erik doggedly struggles to produce a publishable novel, fails to break up with his neglected g.f. Lillian (Silje Hagen), and hangs out with his and Phillip’s circle of urbanista friends.
Fluent editing by Olivier Bugge Coutte and nimble structuring by screenwriters Eskil Vogt and Trier just about manage to keep script’s copious subplots airborne, dropping just a few balls as it reaches the home stretch. Like many another first-time director, Trier seems to be straining to say everything he’s always wanted to get off his chest in one go about his generation, creative rivalry, friendship, women (who, on evidence here, he and Vogt still don’t quite get), music, and cinema.
Final result, with its peculiar happy ending that may or may not be a further fantasy, may leave some auds feeling more drained than satisfied. It’s a bit like spending 105 minutes with a litter of frisky, mischievous puppies.
Thesp ensemble members, who play off each other well in the group scenes, consistently impress, as does the polished tech package that uses Oslo and Paris locations to best effect. Naturalistic lensing by Jakob Ihre milks Scandinavia’s creamy summery light very well.