Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 11:15 am 
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Espen Klouman-Høiner and Anders Danielsen Lie as Erik and Phillip in Reprise

Youthful New Wave-ish wit from Norway

Joachim Trier's smart, witty first film about a group of talented Oslo twenty-somethings won a prize at Toronto and was Norway's Oscar entry. Reprise focuses on Erik (Espen Klouman Hoiner, who's blond, and smiles practically all the time) and Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie, dark-haired, crew-cut and wide-eyed). They're well-off, presentable, and ambitious young men (and best friends) who try to launch writing careers by submitting manuscripts at the same moment. They also share a passion for the same reclusive novelist, Sten Egil Dahl (Sigmund Saeverud). The film amuses us right away by showing a series of alternative possible outcomes to the young men's ambitions with quicksilver editing and a bright voiceover--a light approach which, with the close artistic friendship in the story's foreground, brings up memories of the Nouvelle Vague and especially Truffaut's Jules et Jim. The screenplay, appropriately for a treatment of young people on the brink of maturity, constantly toys with possibilities, which we briefly see. Much of its charm is in the editing, but the opening segment is such a flood of wit, it's a little hard to sustain it.

Moreover things turn a bit more Nordic and dark when Philip is the one to get published first, but immediately has a psychotic episode--partly attributed by doctors and family to his "obsessive" love for his girlfriend Kari (Viktoria Winge)--that lands him for a while in a sanatorium. Much of the film that follows deals with the problems for Phillip and the problems Phillip poses for others after his psychosis emerges.

Now Erik gets a MS. accepted, a little novel (we guess) called Prosopopeia. He thinks that with this event, he must end his relationship with his longtime girlfriend Lillian (Silje Hagen) -- a decision perpetually put off that may recall Matthieu Amalric's wavering over Emmanuelle Devos in Arnaud Desplechin's similar study of a group of (a bit older) intellectual young people, the 1996 My Sex Life. . .or How I Got Into an Argument.

Reprise is full of little ironies, some a bit obvious. There's one friend who acts as a mentor for the guys. Not a good idea to have girlfriends, he says--they'll make you settle into a life of watching TV series and having nice dinners and give you too little time to read and listen to music. That's his rule; and he doesn't have a girlfriend. Then, wouldn't you know it, he's the first one to wind up married and living the bourgeois family life. Another easy irony is the way the pretty editor at Phillip's publisher's is first utterly repelled by an older punk rock band friend's politically incorrect and offensive chatter, then later is drawn to him like a magnet and marries him.

The film's co-writer Eskil Vogt studied at La Fémis, and his French residence comes out in the way two segments of Reprise take place in Paris, where Philip and Kari first discover they're in love and where they go back after his mental problems to recapture the feeling, with mixed success.

Erik and Phillip know where the reclusive Sten Egil Dahl lives and occasionally spy on him. Phillip shoots Erik on a bench pretending to talk with the writer but forgets to remove the lens cap so the photo is a blank. Undeterred, Erik enlarges the resulting black rectangle and hangs it in a prominent place on his wall. Later it turns up as an emblem on the jacket of his book.

Erik performs badly on TV after Prosopopeia is out (arguments over the odd title stand in for a young author's stubborn missteps). He refuses to acknowledge a personal element in his references to psychosis, or anything else for that matter, in his book; and such reticence doesn't go over well on the boob tube. He also reflexively uses a lot of affected finger "quote" marks imitating their mentor, making him look the fool even to his friends. But, in another quick irony, Sten Egil Dahl sees the show, reads Erik's book, and, rescuing him from a mugger, reassures him that he did right on television and that he likes his novel -- or most of it, anyway.

Phillip's psychosis seems to come and go. He can't write any more -- but then he does, though it's unsuccessful, as Erik feels obliged as a best friend to tell him. Phillip has a habit of counting from ten down to zero and we may think when he gets to zero one day he's going to throw himself off a roof or in front of a truck. The darker side is always there, but also the light side. That's why, Trier says, he used lots of punk music but also French poetry in his film. Part of the pleasure in this enjoyable, fresh piece of work is the sense of a group of talented, bright young people at work together making it. The punk band is part of the way the film fills in a whole group of friends from this generation of whom Phillip and Erik are only the foreground. Norwegian filmmaking plainly is infused with new blood and in a good period: there were plenty of Norwegian competitors for their Oscar submission this year.

Shown as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival 2007 and a SKYY Prize contender.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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