Indie Dance Party Redux, or Oslo is the new Stockholm
Mr. Darcy: So what do you recommend to encourage affection?
Elizabeth Bennet: Dancing. Even if one’s partner is barely tolerable.
– Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Right before the second half of a morose film about two young aspiring writers, a dance breaks out. So far, the film unfolds like a book either one of them could have written (since we never actually see their creative process or actual contents). Better yet, it develops like an cinematic adaptation of their novels, complete with flashbacks, flashforwards, what-ifs, and a dry weary narrator. Best buds since grade school, Erik and Phillip, who are the literary equivalents to real life Swedish musical duo, Tough Alliance, struggle to keep their existential careers intact. Philip is depicted as an inherently gifted wordsmith who undergoes a nervous breakdown because he “loves” his girlfriend, Kari, too much. Again props to the casting director for finding a prettier Bjork. Erik’s relationship to writing is bound to his idolizing friendship with Philip; their desires are aligned as if they’re one person. Thankfully, no bizarre love triangle is formed between the three main characters, or at least, by any heterosexual dictum.
Reprise (Joachim Trier, 2006) exchanges scenes and dialogs typical of my generation, a swarm of twenty-somethings with a full-time job and a part-time dream to realize whatever shred of creative potential that might grow into an insular enterprise…this blog for instance.
One of the many elements that have been obligatory in films dealing with dime-store alienation and aimless directionality afflicting young folks is the momentary dance that only exacerbates those symptoms of modernity for the viewer–a confirmation of shit hitting the fan but in slow motion. In Reprise, Le Tigre’s Deceptacon only comes on through the speakers because one of the guys decided to amp up the party scene and overthrow the tranquilizing muzak. It works on both fronts, the participants there, and for me here! Like the bumper car sequence in Bresson’s Mouchette, the dance suspends the pervasive mood enveloping the rest of the film, it gives both the character and the viewer breathing space before we take the plunge back into the film as a whole. Unlike the musical genre which includes its now trendy white girl-can-do-hip-hop-too inspirational manifestos, the best dance sequences are those extractable from the larger body of work. You expect them, not anticipate them. They stick out like sore thumbs and propels our bodies to mingle with those onscreen rather than enjoying it voyeuristically. Reprise with all its crazy pillow fights and heads and toes going up and down, delivers a kinetic analogy to the film’s central metaphor, a dark undeveloped photograph Erik took of him and Philip meeting their great hero, a reclusive author. Only one minor forgotten detail: he left his lens cap on. Yet, like the transitory dance, the blackened photo signifies the very tools of how we visualize—with our memories and imagination—than anything emulsified on film or in cinema. A writer’s block, a reader’s reign.
P.S. Hands down, better than the official video! Jem fans, be proud: