Not many Norwegian films find much of a market in the United States, and I’m not sure if that’s due to the quality, quantity or accessibility of film in Norway. After watching Reprise though, it’s clear to me why this film is one of the few from its country to successfully make the leap into the North American market.
Written and directed by up-and-comer Joachim Trier (No relation to Lars,) Reprise is a small, but absorbing film that shows great promise for Trier’s career. It’s his first feature length film, and after strong receptions for it at Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival, he’s certainly found his way onto the map.
Reprise tells the story of two friends, both writers, who submit their respective books to a number of publishing houses. One of them, Erik, receives nothing but rejection letters. The other, Phillip, gets published and receives nothing but glowing accolades.
But Phillip hardly gets to bask in his success before suffering a mental breakdown. Several months later, he’s released from the psychiatric hospital, and that’s where the story really begins.
Reprise can’t boast a screenplay filled with surprises, but it’s emotionally rich, developing its characters well without using them as simple plot devices to force the story along. If that makes it sound like it’s a meandering film… well, that’s because it kind of is. But it works because Trier cares about his characters even if he doesn’t care about presenting a simple mission-conflict-resolution story structure. Anyone who needs that type of structure in a film need not apply here.
What Trier does exceptionally well is create almost a treatise of sorts on what it means to be a writer. He captures the emotional agony that is involved in creating just about anything and he makes it tangible. Anyone who writes and loves to write will certainly identify with this. Writing can be brutal – it may not send all of us to a mental institution like Phillip, but we may see its effects in other ways as Erik does in the film when he eventually goes on to be published.
Trier has his finger firmly on the pulse of what it means to be a writer and what it means to be young and have problems arise among friends. Reprise is a wise film, and its haphazard structure causes the viewer to have to engage to see that, but it’s ultimately worth it. I look forward to Trier’s next project.
The Reprise DVD comes with the film in Norwegian, accompanied by either English or Spanish subtitles. Included is a wide array of solid special features including deleted scenes and featurettes about the cast (which is exceptional, by the way,) the director, and stories from the set.
Reprise is a standout from many of the generic foreign film entries peddled to us English speakers, and with this well-rounded DVD release, certainly worth picking up.