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Ever since they were young, Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Høiner) have wanted to be famous—and even infamous—authors. They wanted to be eccentric and intellectual, and they wanted to have their own cult following. They wanted to be just like their idol, reclusive author Sten Egil Dahl (Sigmund Sæverud). Before they even sent in their first manuscripts, they had their whole lives planned.

But things don’t go as Phillip and Erik planned—and only Phillip’s manuscript is accepted. Instead of kicking off a successful writing career, though, the publication of Phillip’s book marks the beginning of an obsessive relationship with Kari (Viktoria Winge)—and, eventually, a complete breakdown.

When Phillip returns home from the hospital, Erik tries to help his friend recover while continuing to work on his own manuscript—in the hopes that he, too, will be able to join the literary ranks.

For the most part, the Norwegian drama Reprise tells a pretty simple story about two young guys who are trying to write their own fascinating life stories. They think they know all about a writer’s life. They think they’re deep and intellectual and brilliant. They think they’ll be wildly successful—and they think they’ll live the fabled life of the famously eccentric literary types that they’ve always idolized. They see themselves locked away in their apartments, penning works of genius—only leaving their work for the occasional wild, booze-fueled orgy. But, in real life, things never really go according to plan—and things are rarely as they seem. Not only is the literary life not what they expected—but they’re also too immature and shallow to be the geniuses they thought they were.

Unfortunately, director Joachim Trier overcomplicates this simple story through his perplexing use of non-linear storytelling. Perhaps it doesn’t help that I don’t speak Norwegian, which meant that I had to keep up with the abundant subtitles as I watched the story unfold. But the jumping around—showing what might have happened, what really did happen, and what might happen later—makes it all rather perplexing. In the end, I wasn’t completely sure what had actually happened to the characters and what hadn’t. And, for the most part, I didn’t really care—because I never really felt connected to them.

It seems as though Trier made the same mistake that his characters did. He wanted to appear intellectual and eccentric and artistic, but, in doing so, he lost track of the things that really mattered—things like telling a story and getting a point across. I wish he’d devoted more time to developing his characters and trying to make his audience understand who the characters really are and why they do what they do—instead of distracting from the characters with a whole bunch of dreams and speculations and quick cutting. Had he kept things simple, focusing on the characters, I would have enjoyed Reprise. Instead, this perplexingly artsy film left me feeling exhausted and confused.

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