Director: Joachim Trier
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Julianne Moore and Gabriel Byrne
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: April 22nd
Whether in cinema, or literature, the idea of writing a story about telling a story has by and large ended up being monopolised by male writers, and perhaps, this explains some of the egotism prevalent in the speech, or thoughts of the central characters. “How do I write the Great American novel”, “Am I the voice of a generation”, “I have a duty”, it goes on, and can be tedious, the exploration of one’s creative inner-self.
Yet, once in a while, there emerges a writer, or filmmaker who inserts a bit of realism into this worn-down plot and Joachim Trier is such a person. Hailing from Norway, Trier is a director and screenwriter, whose best known work Reprise is indeed, a shining example of the storyteller whose chief subject matter is storytelling. To his credit though, while still falling within the cliché to a certain extent, he does nonetheless manage to strip away the bravado and idealism, dwelling instead on the isolation and depression that latch onto such a solitary act.
For Trier, storytelling and depression go hand in hand, the latter influencing the former and seldom vice versa. Neither is glamorised. They are tackled with cynicism, biting realism, which is made all the more interesting as he contrasts these matter-of-fact moments with intensely hyper-realistic scenes extracted from the imaginations of his central characters. Pitting dreams against reality, this conflict, while nicely done in Reprise, combined with his creative blending of different medias, and modes of expression, could arguably place him in the category of auteur with Louder Than Bombs.
A story about subjectivity and the pains of creation, Louder than Bombs, his third film, is a stellar English debut that redefines how a director can work within the confines of genre such as familial drama. Using CGI to heighten certain aspects of a mundane world and viewed through a Rashomon lens, Louder Than Bombs follows the Reeds, a family who have encountered great struggle in their collective pursuit of the arts and humanities. Isabelle, the mother (Isabelle Huppert) was once an internationally renowned war photojournalist. However, after many years of risking her life to serve a moral duty, the trauma of each violent experience she willingly placed herself within, has caught up, pushing her to commit the act of suicide.
This act in turn has left her husband Gene (Gabriel Byrne) desponded and desperate to reconnect with his two sons, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), a college professor and recent father himself, and Conrad, who despite living in the same house as Gene, could not be further away from him.
Taking place in the days leading up to the release of a New York Times article, written by Isabelle’s former co-worker, which will make public the fact that her death was not accidental, the three surviving Reeds are, for the first time in years, living under the same roof. However, while each makes a small attempt to reach out to the other two, the fact that they are trying to be honest, while hiding one major secret seems to lessen the tensions not one bit.
While Gene and Jonah are aware of the circumstances surrounding Isabelle’s death, Conrad is still left in the dark, and forced to imagine what happened exactly on the night she crashed her car into a juggernaut truck. The two boys on the other hand, appear to know her better than Gene ever did, and what they know might push Gene over the edge too.
The actions and inactions of each Reed combine to create an unbearably tangible tension of silent resentment, which does not climax with any grand brawl, but rather, which deepens with each passing scene. Whether it is that they cannot, or will not communicate, their attempts at solving various issues remain in vain, as they want to create solutions to this turmoil, all the while forgetting to ask “How are you doing”, as opposed to “What are you doing?”
Told through a partially non-linear structure, with flashbacks, or spoken recollections constantly altering the truth behind scenes revisited time and time again in the present, the story is immensely simple, but handled with a beautiful emotional complexity. Capable of balancing absolute sadness with various moments of delightful hilarity, Trier delivers a piece of work that is genuinely human, and believable, despite appearing, at times, quite unbelievable. It is this ability to make a work of fiction tangible that proves Trier to be such a gifted contemporary auteur. He blurs the lines between what is real and what is fiction, until you get a sense of viewing a documentary, or genuine domestic situation.