||There’s less than meets the eye to Joachim Trier’s “Reprise,” but the loose, limber visual style gives the picture a certain panache—though, to be sure, it mirrors the title by itself being a sort of nostalgic return to the look of the early French Nouvelle Vague. Still, if the tone and appearance of Trier’s movie are largely derivative, it shows that there’s life in the old New Wave yet.
The title also refers to the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t character of the telling. The picture begins with two young men in Oslo, would-be novelists and intellectual companions—Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman- Hoiner)—sending off their manuscripts simultaneously to publishers. A swift flash-forward shows them both achieving acceptance and renown. But a quick reversal reveals that only Phillip’s was published.
In the aftermath, however, Phillip falls apart as a result of all the attention and the strain on his relationship with girlfriend Kari (Viktoria), winding up in a psychiatric hospital. When he’s released to his posse of old pals, led by Erik, he’s still a wreck, unable to write. And his attempts to win back Kari signal desperation.
Meanwhile Erik continues to struggle to find a publisher, and eventually succeeds as well. Along the way he maintains a difficult relationship with his girlfriend Lillian (Silje Hagen) and finally manages, through an accident, to meet the reclusive author whom he and Phillip had admired for years—Sten Egil Dahl (Sigmund Saeverud), who praises his book to a point but proves an intensely sad man.
The ensemble is expanded with a gaggle of the men’s friends—mostly brash, vulgar fellows given to rude jibes and hard partying. The internal tensions and friendly animosities among the guys add another layer to the plot.
Then toward the close comes another shift as Erik, now successful himself, leaves Norway to jumpstart his writing career, returning to find his circle much changed for the better.
Or perhaps the entire final episode is as much a fantasy as the initial one turned out to be. That’s both the charm and the bane of “Reprise.” The combination of seriousness and flippancy is engaging, tossed together as the disparate elements are with considerable elan; but in the end the switches from fact to fantasy and back again—if there’s any “fact” at all in the mix—make it all ephemeral and slight.
Still, if there’s not a great deal of meat on the bones, the skeleton is stylish, marked by fluent cinematography by Jakob Ihre that prefers grit to gloss and sharp editing by Olivier Bugge Coutte that’s quicksilver but not irritatingly so. And the cast work exceptionally well together. Lie’s sullen intensity can seem overdone at times, but Klouman-Hoiner’s stumbling boyishness (which really lies at the film’s center) is right on, and the supporting players are enthusiastic and create convincingly complex characters.
“Reprise” isn’t deep, and stylistically it owes much to forty-year old models. But its amiability and avoidance of pretension make it easy to take.