Being a Norwegian film, Reprise is the kind of movie that smart people will call you a philistine if you don’t like it, and simpletons will call you “fruity,” if you do (mostly because you’re watching something with subtitles in it). But it presents the strange scenario where being on both side of the fence isn’t really an option. You’re really never sure whether to cringe, laugh, or squint at what’s going on in front of you, and for that reason, I think Reprise is a winner. If not just for being a film compacted with so many different emotions at once, then at least for being such a damn good movie with a great deal of emotional oomph.
Norwegians are smart people. It’s not enough that they have to have that cool diagonal slash through most of their o’s, making them look all sorts of erudite. But they also have to have sophisticated movies that aren’t quite drama and aren’t quite comedy, and surely aren’t what you’d call a black comedy, or, dramedy, if you’re familiar with all those hippy dippy terms these days.
No, Reprise doesn’t really fit into a category, and if it did, would it make it any more or less sublimely meditative in its scope or presentation? Probably not, but if it did fit into a category, I’d say it’d fit into this—Existential coming-of-age buddy flick. And even that specification isn’t doing it justice, because Reprise is more than just that and it’s not. It’s everything that I just mentioned and it’s none of those things at all. Confused yet? You have no idea what confusion means until you watch this movie.
The story centers around two friends who aspire to be novelists but meet very different outcomes in the process. One becomes successful at the onset, leading him to a quick, spiraling descent into depression that he never snaps out of. And the other achieves it a little later in life, never fully enjoying the wanderlust excitement that he pictures in his head when he goes on his little mental romps. Of course, being a foreign film, the characters think forward in flashback form, progressing the film in means that conventional American storytelling just doesn’t abide by. In that way, I was a little lost with how the story was moving. At times, many of the wishful thinking scenarios that the characters have in the movie are really just that, wishful thinking, and about four minutes of film can be spent on a reverie that never really happens. This makes you shake your head and say, “So wait, that was just a daydream?” And as hard as it is for me to admit this at the risk of sounding dumb, this happened to me a lot while watching the movie, especially at the end.
Even so, even if the emotional depth of the film is too great for me, I feel that it’s the kind of movie that grows on you for being so displaced and out of synch, sort of like the stories the two authors write in the movie. This creates a very meta feeling that the characters in the movie might be watching the same movie you’re watching, but only from a different seat in the house. I’ll explain.
In one scene from the film, one of the characters takes his girlfriend to France after suffering a mental collapse that has all but alienated him from pretty much everybody, including his mother and his best friend. While they’re in France, though, you feel as out of place as they do. You feel displaced and lost in a location that should be distinct and clear in your mind from hearing and seeing so many pictures of it so many times. But the depth of the character’s emotional distance is so great that you don’t feel right at home there and actually feel a sort of yearning to get back home to a steady narrative again. If there’s one thing I love about foreign films—well, besides their nonchalant attitude towards sex—it’s the feeling of change you go through yourself while watching the movies, and Reprise does that on many levels. In a way, it’s like watching a writer craft a new draft of a novel with every viewing, which is so apropos for this kind of movie about writers writing and dealing with their responsibilties as being writers.
And if you’re wondering why I said “apropos,” instead of “appropriate,” blame it on this movie for being so damn smart. It kind of rubs off on you by the end. But if you’re not looking for that kind of “rubbing off,” feeling, then stray far, far away from Repirse, because it’s all about rubbing off—rubbing off old skin, rubbing off expectations, rubbing off even a future. If you’re interested in any of those topics, then this is the movie for you. If not, as said before, then stay away. This one isn't for you. Philistine.
Special features are important on a DVD release. Commentary is usually my favorite feature of any movie that comes home, with the obscure and the humorous being a good mix on any voice track. Foreign releases don’t normally get that treatment, though, because sometimes, there would have to be two subtitle lines, one for the actual movie and one for the writer/director/actor who was in the movie talking about the film, leading to a jumbled mess if there ever was one.
There is a solution to this predicament—American critics can provide commentary on the movie, but Reprise doesn’t take that approach, which I think is a pity because a deep, introspective film like this could definitely use the discussion . Instead, we’re given some rather blah special features, with the deleted scenes being the only memorable addition to the movie.
In the “Casting Resprise,” feature, we find that the Phillip and Erik characters played in the movie were selected out of 1200 different people just to get the part, which is an interesting little tidbit, I guess, but seeing the two actors (Anders Danielsen Lie and Espen Klouman Honer, respectively), just sit on the couch with their legs crossed, discussing the acting process is just a little too boring for me. Sure, a movie about relationships, both of the friend and significant other variety, is going to be laden with dialogue and long moments of silence, but on a bonus feature, that can be fatal. I was yearning for less yack, more munching on snacks and throwing popcorn at each other. But I guess that was hoping for too much from a couple of Norwegians.
“All in Trier’s Details,” is another feature with a lot of hand waving and crossed legs as the director talks about all the minutiae that goes into making a film like this, including sound work, editing, and yada yada yada, talk, talk, talk. I get it! Making movies is hard work. Okay, you don’t have to talk your guts out about it. “Annecdotes,” is actually pretty interesting. Here, the director and his pal, Eskil, discuss the writing process of such an emotional movie, and how a lot of their own lives found a way into the picture. It’s candid, it’s real, and it’s enjoyable. You kind of wish the whole bonus features was really just all anedoctes, which really might have actually worked for a movie like this.
“Love’s Not Easy” discusses the painfully awkward sex scene in the film, and “So Sorry,” shows just how penitent Norwegians are, with the word “Sorry,” dropped so many times in the movie that a special feature was actually made just for that. The only real winner though is the “Deleted Scenes,” which features out of synch details that actually look like they complete the film better than just being extra added fluff. With such an out of place movie of this caliber, more out of place stuff just sweetens the pot. Overall, though, you feel a little cheated in the end for lack of a commentary and deleted scenes that all but should have been in the actual movie itself. The other features are just a giant, gaping yawn.