The Norwegian drama, "Reprise," is the first feature-length work by Danish-born director Joachim Trier - a premier effort that bodes great things for his future as a filmmaker. He is clearly alive to the possibilities of the medium, as reflected in the original, highly idiosyncratic style he brings to the film. Trier deftly employs many of the tools of the filmmaker's trade - narration, flashbacks, flash forwards, near-subliminal quick cuts to show imagined events, etc. - to convey his story. Yet, rare for a newcomer, Trier never indulges in any of these "tricks" for their own sweet sake or to call attention to his own ingenuity; they are always placed at the service of the material, never the other way around.
Best friends from childhood, Erik and Phillip share the hope of one day becoming writers whose works will go beyond the merely commercial to challenge the status quo - thereby earning them the coveted status of "cult" authors. As it turns out, Phillip's novel is published, but Erik's is not, yet Phillip winds up paying a price for his success, namely an emotional breakdown that has Erik performing a near-round-the-clock suicide-prevention watch on his friend. Meanwhile, Erik continues on with his writing, experiencing success and disappointment - both professional and personal - along the way.
Erik and Phillip are both extremely complex characters, and Trier provides no penny-ante analysis to make them more easily understandable for the audience. Sometimes it's hard to tell what exactly it is that is bothering the two, except that, in Philip's case at least, it might be actual mental illness that lies at the root of his problem. Like many creative types, Erik and Phillip seem incapable of not over-analyzing and over-intellectualizing every single aspect of their lives, often resulting in a chronic dissatisfaction with themselves and the world around them. As writers, they become obsessed with trying to convey every single nuance of life through language, and when they fail at that endeavor - as they inevitably do - the only viable option left for them seems to be either depression or madness. As a consequence of all this, their relationships with women don't work out - and even their own longtime friendship threatens to come apart at the seams the deeper they go into brutal self-awareness.
As Erik and Phillip, Espen Klouman-Hoiner and Anders Danielsen Lie give supple, sensitive performances, as does Viktoria Winge as Phillip's on-again/off-again love interest. The screenplay is rich in texture and sophisticated in theme, while the filmmaking itself sparkles with bold creativity and unfettered imagination.
As touching as it is thought-provoking, "Reprise" is a remarkably accomplished and assured piece of filmmaking - especially coming from a first timer.