Joachim Trier's intellectual basis and aspiration is running through his debut feature, Reprise, as the main thematic thread. This is a fundamentally ambitious movie, both narratively and thematically, but most of all artistically. Trier tries so hard to impress that he ultimately winds up biting his own tail. Fortunately, it's just a little nibble, not a devastating bite.
You will probably find more films about writers than you'll find about any other profession. But knowing that plumbers like to talk about plumbing, and that psychologists want to discuss our mentality, I guess it's only natural that screenwriters have a fascination for literary writers. In Reprise we meet two of them (well, actually maybe four or even five). In the leads, Anders Danielsen Lie and Espen Klouman-Høiner are young, ambitious writers. I might add struggling, although their struggles are quite different in nature. Trier discusses being young and idealistic in general, and grazes a number of subjects in the process, including mental illness, relationships and the state of being young and disillusioned - everything coated in Trier's intellectual, urban landscape.
The bold narrative style is impressive; Reprise comes at you in sections, cyclically revealing glimpses of information before concealing itself suddenly, until we finally are able to make out an outline. This makes for a rich film - if not thematically then at least filmatically. However, Trier can't avoid appearing pretentious and bloated as he tries to arrive at general allegoric conclusions. Both the direction and writing are poetic and grand, but the intelligibility of the writing can't quite match the flair of the direction.
Although the film is restricted, Reprise shows some fine, timeless insight into being in your twenties, growing up and living in a big, European city. The dialogue and acting is somewhat uneven, but more often impressive than not. In a handful of individual scenes, Trier shows that he is a talent to be reckoned with (notably a scene at the beach in Bygdøy and a segment from a party). The two leads are both capable, and, although his performance has flaws, Anders Danielsen Lie shows that he might just be a coming man, 16 years after he was a coming boy in Herman. By his side, Espen Klouman-Høiner displays sensitivity and a useful range as Erik. However, from a large and fine ensemble cast, it's hard not to point out Henrik Mestad's wee, delightful part as an out-of-touch publisher.
Norwegian films are often small and quirky, commenting on society from a distance. Reprise, on the other hand, tries to mingle in, and that takes a lot more courage and ability. Joachim Trier shows in segments that he has the talent to be able to go the extra mile, even if he with Reprise can't quite compose a totally wholesome unit. Reprise is an impressive film, and maybe the only movie ever produced that includes a shot of the street from which yours truly is sitting writing this review right now.