Film of the week: Reprise (Trier, 2006)
Joachim Trier’s debut film, Reprise, opens with best friends Phillip and Erik posting their manuscripts, both with the hope of getting their debut novels published. We then witness a series of what-ifs and a comparison of their lives from that significant moment, in a sequence reminiscent of Jules et Jim. Reprise follows a non-linear narrative, instead choosing to implement flashbacks, intercuts, thoughts and these what-if scenarios, breaking traditional narrative styles. The film feels more like a novel in the sense that there is an unreliable narrator at the centre who dictates the two protagonists’ successes and failures, as we witness the beginning of their careers as young novelists in contemporary Norway. This style, which is omnipresent throughout the film, purposefully presents us with a disordered timeline of events, not to confuse us, but to truthfully portray the sporadic journey that the two protagonists experience themselves.
Phillip and Erik, who are both in their early 20s, live in Oslo and aspire to be like their literary idol Sten Egil Dahl. Anders Danielsen Lie plays Phillip, whose novel is selected for publication and, after finding brief fame, suffers with mental health, resulting in him being hospitalised after a breakdown. Phillip then attempts to relive his past with his ex-girlfriend Kari (Viktoria Winge), despite Erik trying to intervene for the benefit of his best friend, who struggles to let go. In one scene, Phillip invites Kari to Paris and attempts to recreate their previous trip to almost every detail, even leaving on the exact same date as their previous trip. We go along the ride with him, reliving the experience and it seems that everything is back to normal. It isn’t until an eerie moment when Phillip tries to recreate a photograph in the Luxembourg Gardens, in a scene reminiscent of Vertigo, that we suddenly become aware that his condition hasn’t improved and he is attempting to relive his past. As he positions Kari for the photograph, it ultimately triggers his memory of their break-up which initially led to his hospitalisation. Phillip is so obsessed and focused on trying to capture the moment when they were both happy and in love, that it becomes apparent that he is still living in a fantasy which he can’t escape from and that we are also a part of, until that moment.
Espen Klouman Høiner gives an outstanding performance as Erik, Phillip’s best friend and the more successful of the two, although his success comes later than Phillip’s. Erik’s writing career begins to take off after publishing his debut novel, Prosopopoeia. Both Erik and Phillip manage to publish their work and pursue their dreams of becoming novelists, however, it is their journeys thereafter that is such an integral part of the story.
Reprise is an exhilarating film that is constantly moving and which so beautifully captures youthful ambition, complicated relationships and the bitterness of reality. Although heavily influenced by Truffaut and the French New Wave, Trier’s debut film almost feels like we are watching a documentary, a style which is perfectly evoked through Jakob Ihre’s stunning cinematography, who has shot all of Trier’s feature films to date.
Reprise is currently available on MUBI.