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God is Godard

By John Murphy

Posted 10/1/08 at 2:56 AM

Reprise is a movie about young Norwegian writers that feels made by young French filmmakers: stylish, self-conscious, angsty, funny, a little sloppy, and unapologetically pretentious. Erik and Philip are two aspiring writers and lifelong friends who simultaneously slide their manuscripts (as precious to them as bundled babies) into a mail chute in the opening scene of the film. Phillip achieves instant success and near-instant institutionalization, while Erik’s career trajectory is slower, steadier, and likelier to win the race. In an age of declining literacy and rising idiocy, there’s something touching about a movie that takes the ambition to be a serious writer seriously. For Reprise’s 23-year old protagonists, writing is sacrosanct, an almost religious ritual, and Philip’s inability to write is tantamount to spiritual paralysis. Their ‘God’ is Sten Egil Dahl (a pun on ‘Stendhal,’ the author of The Red and the Black—the definitive account of young French male solipsism and career-climbing), a reclusive author whose disapproval or approbation means the difference between failure and success to his proteges. But success in Art doesn’t equal success in Life, as the sad fate of Dahl attests.

Joachim Trier’s God is Godard, evidenced by Reprise‘s jumpy, frenetic cutting and jostling handheld camerawork (staples of the French New Wave). Reference is reverence to Trier: he samples his cinematic forefathers like a masterful DJ. It’s a promising debut, though, like his young protagonists, he may have some growing up to do before producing a work of lasting impact.