Youth, love, ambition, madness and literature are the primary concerns of "Reprise," a Norwegian coming-of-age movie by Joachim Trier. It's Trier's debut feature, and it feels as if he has packed every idea and experience into it that he could; it has the exuberance of a runner blasting down the track in his first race.
"Reprise" is a double portrait of Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) and Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie), would-be novelists in their early 20s who are discovering their identities the way adolescents do, collaging them bit by bit from pop culture and favorite books. The film references cult novelist Don DeLillo, Joy Division and nudie director Russ Meyer.
Trier made his movie in the same spirit, packing "Reprise" with ideas from the French New Wave, punk rock, politics and literature. It's an invigorating brew of dynamic visuals, quicksilver emotions, playful storytelling and chic, good-looking actors.
From the opening salvo you know you're in capable hands. Philip and Erik drop the manuscripts of their first novels in the post, and then we're on a supercharged fantasy about the world-shattering impact of their books, which disillusion the Dalai Lama and spark revolts in Africa. We're guided by a narrator who comments ironically on the action.
Snapping back to reality, we learn that Erik's book was turned down and Philip's was a minor hit. Jump ahead six months, and Erik and a couple of friends drive to the mental hospital Philip has inhabited since his suicide attempt. Too many things suddenly went right for him - early success and an obsessive love for his editor (Norwegian model Viktoria Winge) - triggering his nervous personality.
From there the film charts the pair's lives and careers through surprising arcs. There's an overlay of Nordic gloom to parts of the story, but many passages are ticklishly funny. Erik's disastrous appearance on a TV book chat show lays the groundwork for a series of followup jokes.
While the aspiring authors are the film's focus, 'Reprise' is positively littered with intriguing characters, from their bickering circle of friends to the melancholy, reclusive author they idolize. Everyone seems realistically observed. They are as obnoxious and creative as any artist you could hope to meet.
Hoiner and Lie, both handsome to a fault, make the literary life look unutterably hip and sexy. Surprisingly, neither is a professional actor; you'd never know it from their assured performances. Like Trier and "Reprise" itself, they're impressive examples of what unbridled imagination and self-confidence can achieve. *