The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Reprise

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Two young writers embark on wildly different paths when each submits a first manuscript to an Oslo publishing company.  Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) attains instant acceptance and early fame.  Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) is unceremoniously rejected.  Philip develops a psychosis, is institutionalized and released.  Erik continues to write and submit his work.

Sporadically narrated by a male voice in the subjunctive form (Erik would have done this, Phillip would have done that) and hampered by subtitles within this confusing format, the viewer is never sure if events are happening, have happened, will happen or never happened.  Discovery is good, confusion is not.

Phillip has an anchor and an inspiration in longtime girlfriend Kari (Viktoria Winge).  Erik’s girlfriend Lillian (Silje Hagen) is good enough to continue seeing because he hasn’t made it yet.  Once he gets published, he intends to leave her.

Both young men idolize Sten Egil Dahl, (Sigmund Saeverud) Norway’s greatest living writer, reclusive to the point of eccentricity.  His kind of fame appeals to them, mysterious, speculative, and somewhat notorious. Neither would admit to coveting celebrity, wealth and success – they are in it for the pseudo-intellectual inaccessibility, uh, I mean the deep philosophical expression of ideas.

Phillip and Erik’s group of friends is a motley crew of sarcastic, somewhat mean-spirited young men.  The film attempts to explain their back stories, but only succeeds in forming psychologically stunted tributaries that lead nowhere.  Perhaps this is Norwegian conflict at its best: understated, cynical and slow-moving.

The film follows the two writers as much as it can, interspersed with flashbacks, fast forwards, and real-time chronology that doesn’t so much move the narrative along as splinter it among too many people.  The one constant is the music that drives them along – loud, subversive lyrics which help them release their angst at concerts and parties.

There are scenes of Phillip and Kari in Paris after his release from the sanitarium, Erik with his new publisher and on televised interviews after his book is accepted, and the group of friends interacting, challenging each other in ways that make the viewer question why they’re friends in the first place.  When Phillip and Erik interact they are at such different phases of life that you wonder if they can effectively communicate anymore.  Phillip counts backward from ten to one several times at intervals that make sense to him, and sometimes there’s a flavor of suicide about him.  Erik has a chance meeting with his reclusive idol after a sudden fit of self-destructive behavior.

Reprise seems to end a few times, fading to black enigmatically at several points then, disappointingly, continuing the story of the two writers and their struggle for literary relevance, the kind where you hold your forehead in one hand, a lit cigarette in the other and ponder the meaning of life through words that don’t say what you really mean.

If you think it’s exhilarating reading about this, try watching it.  Viewers are left with a story that is only somewhat linear and relentlessly speculative, without becoming emotional invested in either.  There are no great highs or lows, just an even keel of mediocrity.  People sit around talking, thinking, and then talking some more about what they just thought about.

Anders Danielsen Lie and Espen Klouman-Hoiner as Phillip and Erik are serious and contemplative to the point of boredom; neither inspire viewer interest, only sympathy for the women who are too loyal for too long to such male specimens.

Viktoria Winge as Kari is good for a Parisian sex scene and Silje Hagen as the rarely seen Lillian serves to highlight Erik’s shallow nature and emotional reticence.  Women are afterthoughts, good for sex, useless for any kind of deep thought.  Apparently it’s a man’s world in Norway, too.

Writer-Director Joachim Trier co-wrote Reprise (with Eskil Vogt) and it’s his feature film debut.   While his intent is clear – stuff an anti-narrative story full of intellectual friendships that are haunting, sad, and funny despite psychosis, depression and suicidal tendencies – his execution is somber and uninteresting.

The film won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the national film awards in its native Norway.  Like that country’s popular dish, smalahove (smoked lamb’s head), it must be an acquired taste.

As for me, I will not reprise a viewing of Reprise anytime soon; not when Sominex is so readily available.


In Norwegian with English subtitles