I've finally gotten around to writing something about this joyous film.
"I cannot cure myself of that most woeful of youth's follies - thinking that those who care about us will care for the things that mean much to us."
There are few phrases in the lexicon that conjure such wistfulness as "the follies of youth". Much has been written of it being wasted on the young and its haunting capacity for too much or too little in its due time. And yet the most joyous films about youth often times have an overwhelming sorrow to them even as they unravel unpresuming. Reprise is one of those films, a gloriously alive treatise on living in the past or the future in lieu of the moment. Neither Philip nor Erick who set out to change the world with their writing entirely make that connection by the film's end, but their quest for idealized literary revolution is perverted and they find themselves in a new world with many years spent in a place of their dreams that does not exist.
The film begins much as it ends, with early twentysomethings Philip and Erick on the brink of dropping off their manuscripts for submission; and not unlike those tumbling envelopes, writer/director Joachim Trier deviates into a world where Erick has second thoughts, and the film falls into prelude, a rapid-fire reshuffling of what is to come and how it is affected by this decision. We are given the entire movie before the credits, more or less, only this one doesn't happen. Why does Trier indulgently segue like this? Because sweetly indulgent maybes are what make up Philip and Erick's lives. We begin with the world that might have been and we end with the world that might have been. They are both the future imperfect even though they have not happened and they are already in the past. The follies of youth...
Erick does submit his manuscript and it is rejected, whereas the far less level-headed Philip's is accepted and burdened by success, falls into a nervous breakdown and suicide attempt that even the love of a beautiful woman (Viktoria Winge's Kari, in the film's most beautiful performance) cannot salvage. Erick is there to pick up his pieces six months later and bring him back home but Philip finds he cannot write. Instead, Philip spends most of his time focusing on his relationship with Kari who cannot understand why he is so shrewd about their possible future together. Instead, quite masochistically and not incidentally recalling Vertigo, Philip brings Kari to Paris, not to rekindle their relationship to be rewrite it as painstaking in detail as a Kubrick film. In the film's saddest moment, he forces her to pose exactly how she did even though it is not a remotely comfortable pose.
Whereas Philip is drawn to recreating the past, Erick continues to write for the future and gets a work published that may not live up to the expectations he has drawn for himself. Already, he keeps everybody at an arm's length including his girlfriend with whom he has already long-since made plans to break up with. He surrounds himself with boorish friends because he can elevate his sense of superiority but also because they are safe and even as his career threatens to take off through the stratosphere, he maintains his status quo as if he is biding time until he becomes the legend he thinks he is. Ironically in his most singularly tragic moment, he meets a legendarily reclusive Norwegian author at a function, a moment he has dreamt of all his life, and he is in the company of one of his friends who renders Erick a boob in the legend's mind through association.
Reprise isn't the first movie to focus on the pain of youthful artists but it is the first one in a long time to warrant such an indulgent pastiche. The lessons conveyed in Reprise aren't incredibly deep but rather imminently relatable, and Trier directs his film with such energy and panache. Reprise slips in and out of time (and tense) so that we are never entirely sure if what we are watching is happening now or years prior in the case of Philip and Kari's Parisian excursion. It is a sad film ultimately but one that feels as alive and not just in the moment but in all moments, just like the characters.
There is something very telling about the fim's poster with Philip staring ahead presumably at nothing (or it is the future) out of focus, with Kari staggered behind him, gazing at him concerned, and very much in focus.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver