Due to popular demand, Judge Clark Douglas is reprising his review of The Evil Dead instead of writing new content.
Two writers. Two lives. One dream.
Erik (Espen Klouman Hoiner) and Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) are best friends. They have known each other for quite a long time, and both have a passion for writing. Each has recently made an attempt at writing a book. Erik is dating Lillian (Silje Hagen), whom he has determined to break up with if he ever gets his book published. Phillip has just fallen in love with a breezy young woman named Kari (Viktoria Winge), who brings a good deal of joy to the proceedings. Both young men eagerly anticipate a reaction from the various publishers they have contacted, and proceed to make plans about how life as a famous writer will be. Things only work out for one of them. Erik's book is published to great acclaim, while Phillip is rejected time and time again. Reprise follows these two Norwegian chums down the road of fame and folly, examining stops along the way both trivial and life-changing.
"Do you want to get it published, or do you just want to cultivate your angst?"
So says one young writer to another. They toss two thick brown envelopes into the post, and a narrator stops in to inform us of what might have happened from this point onward. The narrator begins with an ominous confidence, informing us that one of the writers would eventually become disillusioned with literature and go into a fit of rage. Then the narrator changes his mind, saying that such a thing wouldn't happen. The narrator does this quite a lot, and we begin to doubt his credibility increasingly as the film progresses. This is just one many gimmicks the movie employs in an attempt to grab our attention, and it kind of works. This self-absorbed, brash little movie is particularly watchable. We're constantly wondering what Reprise is up to. Sadly, the answer is, "not too much."
The packaging proudly informs us that the film is "filled with infectious energy" and "filmed in the French New Wave" style. Both statements are more or less true, but they also offer an indication of the film's biggest problem. We're constantly reminded of other films, particularly Jules and Jim. The movie seems to be intentionally inviting this comparison. That's a risky move, and it doesn't pay off here. By reminding us of Truffaut's similar (and far superior) film, Reprise comes across as an enthusiastically misguided imitation. This effort is to the great films of the French New Wave what The Boondock Saints is to Tarantino films.
Though the various visual flourishes always keep the viewer's attention, occasionally they become a little bit annoying. Reprise seems a little too caught up in the mindset of its characters. What do I mean by that? I mean that the movie is confident, ironic, energetic, and mostly detached from any genuine or honest emotion. The film gleefully serves up loads of casual shocks (such as a guy getting suddenly hit by a car in the middle of a conversation) and pseudo-intellectual angst, but Reprise never steps back far enough to get a truly honest look at the characters. We get the sense that we are watching the film from the perspective of Erik and Phillip, without a filter from someone who is a little wiser and more knowing than these people.
The characters here are a mixed bag. While the main characters are drawn reasonably well, they're not quite as distinct or memorable as you might hope. They spend much of their time stuck somewhere between happiness and depression, never quite coming genuinely close enough to make us care about them. Some of the sniffling young side characters are far less engaging, about as complex and compelling as the "jerks from the other team" in a sports movie.
Maybe I'm making the movie sound a little worse than it is. I liked some scenes, but most aren't particularly important in the scheme of things. I liked some of the discussions about the literary world, though none of these are as insightful as those that can be found in the wonderful Starting Out in the Evening. I liked the way the film uses sound and music, and I like the slightly satirical take on the process of publicizing literature. Reprise is pleasant stuff more often than not. It's just that a movie like this really needs to be something more than merely pleasant.
The transfer is pretty solid, if a little drab from time to time. The soft color scheme is conveyed pretty well during lighter scenes, but a few night sequences are a bit too dark and murky. Sound is quite solid here, sharp and engaging. At times the film is downright aggressive in the sound department (take note of the punk rock-fueled opening credits), but the film is mostly quite subtle in the way it uses various bits of background noise. I know this may sound like damning with faint praise, but the sound design is one of the greatest attributes that can be found here.
A few brief featurettes make up most of the extras. "Casting Reprise" looks at how the primary characters were formed, while "All in Trier's Details" focuses on the work of director Joachim Trier and cinematographer Jakob Ihre. "Anecdotes" is a grab bag of comments from the director and co-writer Eskil Vogt, while "Love's Not Easy" is a discussion of the difficulties of filming a sex scene. The actors say the usual things about how sex is far and away the most technical and least passionate thing to film in the entire movie. I recently read an interview with John C. Reilly, who claimed that being naked and making out with somebody is still being naked and making out with somebody. I'm more inclined to believe him. Anyway, this section had one comment from the director that amused me: "I shot a lot of film in that scene, a whole lot of film. I wanted to have a lot to pick and choose from so I could select my favorite shots." Insert snickers here. A total of 12 deleted scenes run about 15 minutes. Finally, there's a one-minute montage of a bunch of different Norwegians using the English word, "sorry." I'll resist using that as an opportunity to take an easy shot at the film.
Reprise is a film that you'll probably feel compelled to stick with until the end. It offers the promise of something exciting and fresh, but sadly never delivers on that promise. This one is a disappointment, but I hope that Trier and co. are able to capitalize on their obvious potential as they head into the future. Guilty.
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• "Casting Reprise"
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