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Originally published Friday, June 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Reprise": The joys and complications of a friendship on the cusp of adulthood

Few films open with the bang that "Reprise" carries in its first, galvanizing moments. The pre-credits scene for this endlessly inventive...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3.5 stars

"Reprise," with Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman-Hoiner, Viktoria Winge. Directed by Joachim Trier, from a screenplay by Trier and Eskil Vogt. 105 minutes. Rated R for sexuality and language. In Norwegian with English subtitles. Varsity.

Few films open with the bang that "Reprise" carries in its first, galvanizing moments. The pre-credits scene for this endlessly inventive, contemporary Norwegian drama — which often has the exploratory and celebratory whoosh of an early French New Wave feature by François Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard — is one of the most economical yet dynamic story launches seen in a while.

Longtime friends Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner), aspiring 20-something authors, stand together by a mailbox, each ready to post their first, completed manuscripts to prospective publishers. It's a pivotal moment in young, promising lives, and they know and appreciate it all the more for their intense, shared love of literature and dreams of being taking seriously as writers.

Director and co-screenwriter Joachim Trier makes us feel the characters' muted excitement and nervousness over risking a dive into the charged spirit of their time.

After all that repressed energy, Trier turns it loose in a credits sequence that rocks hard and embraces sheer abandon. There are few movie moments these days that can make one feel good to be alive, but "Reprise's" opening does.

As hoped, everything changes after Phillip and Erik jointly take the plunge. But not in the way they might have preferred. Phillip's book is published, but at the height of his newfound celebrity, he suffers a psychological breakdown and is hospitalized.

Erik's book is rejected. While he copes, he spends time trying to shore up Phillip during his recovery. Eventually, fortunes are reversed: Erik's tome ("Prosopopeia") is published, but to mixed reviews.

Trier ingeniously captures in Phillip and Erik a difficult relationship transition into adulthood, from pursuing common passions to being stuck in intertwined destinies.

Yet their lives are increasingly different from each other. Phillip's on-again, off-again psychotic breaks swallow up his love for the endearingly doleful Kari (Viktoria Winge). Meanwhile, the ambiguous critical reception to "Prosopopeia" finds Erik on an unexpected journey to sort out the authentic from the derivative in his writing.

Or does it?

Despite several scenes shot in Paris, Trier photographs Winge not so much as a cinematic muse in the manner Truffaut shot Jeanne Moreau or Godard shot Anna Karina when the French were reinventing film in the 1950s and '60s. Rather, Trier frames Winge as a fixed point in a movie that keeps inventing new paths as the lead characters grow and change.

Some of those paths, perhaps all of them, are not necessarily consistent with a singular story. This is, after all, a movie about writers led around by their muse. Sometimes "Reprise" is an act of narrative projection, or of possibilities, or of hazy reminiscences becoming future chapters in personal myth.

"Reprise" is not just about engaging with or surviving through the creative instinct. It is that instinct.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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