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Reprise (R) ***

Anders Danielsen Lie as Phillip, Viktoria Winge as Kari. Photo: Nils Vik/Courtesy of Miramax Films.
Anders Danielsen Lie as Phillip, Viktoria Winge as Kari. Photo: Nils Vik/Courtesy of Miramax Films.

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

The exuberance of the storytelling in Reprise, the impressive debut by Norwegian director Joachim Trier (who also co-wrote the script), makes a fine foil for the film’s darker moments. This story about two aspiring writers in their early 20s has the fearlessness and vivacity of a first novel, and its playful approach to chronology and voice-over narration serves to amplify its themes instead of coming off as a show-off trick.

The movie, about the friendship between budding novelists Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) and Phillip (Anders Danielson Lie), begins at the moment the two young men mail off their finished manuscripts to prospective publishers. Phillip’s book is accepted; Erik’s is not. Erik immediately starts to wonder if he ”utterly without talent.” Phillip, meanwhile, has a mental breakdown and tries to commit suicide.

It sounds gloomy, but Reprise is anything but. Using the writerly bond between Erik and Phillip as his focus, Trier (a ”distant” relative of filmmaker Lars Von Trier, according to the film’s press notes) uses the movie to explore that moment in young men’s lives when they still value the things that drove them as teenagers — camaraderie, music, partying, dreaming — but are increasingly being forced to confront the realities of adulthood.

Although the film’s gaze is predominantly male, its female characters are written with the same insight and perception as the boys’. One of the key plotlines of the film is Phillip’s obsessive relationship with his girlfriend Kari (the lovely Viktoria Winge), one of the factors blamed for his suicide attempt. With a speed and grace that makes most Hollywood romances seem clumsy and obvious, Reprise shows us the initial spark that draws them together, the connection that keeps them trying when their relationship is strained, and the melancholy that takes over when an unbalanced Phillip takes Kari on a repeat visit to Paris, hoping to reenact the magical vacation they previously had there.

Phillip’s psychosis, which is treated directly but without melodramatics, is the direct opposite of Erik’s happy-go-lucky existence, which takes an upturn when he, too, finally gets a novel published, gets to meet his idol — a reclusive writer — and struggles with his long-term relationship with his girlfriend, whom he has outgrown but doesn’t want to hurt.

Set to music by Joy Division, New Order and Norwegian punk-rock bands, Reprise does for writers what Trainspotting did for drug addicts. But the characters’ literary obsession is ultimately a MacGuffin, since it’s not what they do as a profession, but what they do with their lives, that the film is interested in. The coming-of-age story is one of the most malleable of all movie genres, and Reprise proves there’s plenty of life left in it.

Cast: Espen Klouman-Hoiner, Anders Danielson Lie, Viktoria Winge, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Pal Stokka, Christian Rubeck

Director: Joachim Trier

Screenwriters: Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier

Producer: Karin Julsrud

A Miramax Films release. In Norwegian with English subtitles. Running time: 105 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, nudity, drug use, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: South Beach.

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