This cool, disquieting film follows the alternating fortunes of two young, aspiring novelists in contemporary Norway, a place many mistakenly believe to be devoid of anything "cool" beyond the outside temperature.
"This is where it all begins," Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) portentously intones as he and his best-friend, Erik (Espen Klouman Hoiner), each drop the manuscripts for their very first novels into the mailbox. Phillip is quite right, but what's about to begin isn't exactly the long, illustrious literary careers he and Erik have dreamed of since they were young and obsessed with books, punk rock and the works of the reclusive Norwegian novelist Sten Egil Dahl (Sigmund Saeverud). Phillip's MS will be rejected, leaving him doubting his talent, while Erik's will not only be published, but will sky-rocket him to fame as one of Norway's brightest young literary lights. In just a matter of months, it will all fall apart. After suffering a serious psychotic break triggered by an obsession with his girlfriend, Kari (Viktoria), Phillip is committed to a psychiatric hospital. Medicated and dazed, Phillip is later released, and he rejoins Erik and the tight circle of friends that formed in the late 90s around the Oslo punk band Kommando, and who are still hanging out together instead of getting proper girlfriends and moving on with their lives: Morten (Odd Magnus Wiliamson), whom Erik first met at a Kommando show; misogynistic med student Lars (Christian Rubeck); Geir (Pal Stokka), the brother of Kommano's drummer; and Henning (Henrik Elvestad), Kommando's lead singer who now runs his own ad agency. Phillip moves back into his apartment but it's he who is now doubtful about his writing, while Erik's fortunes have suddenly reversed. During Phillip's hospitalization, Erik reworked his rejected manuscript, and it's now been accepted by a publisher. Faced with the prospect of finally becoming the writer he imagined he'd one day be causes Erik to consider whether its time to rethink his life, his friends and his girlfriend for the past three years, Lillian (Silje Hagen). Erik also begins to wonder about Phillip, whose failure hangs like a specter of doom over his own emerging star.
Writer-director Joachim Trier and cowriter Eskil Vogt deftly combine comedy, social satire, romance and tragedy using a variety of narrative techniques -- flashbacks, tangential asides and two poignant what-might-have-been scenarios that bookend the film -- all accompanied by a wryly omniscient third-person voiceover (courtesy Eindride Eidsvoll). The result is a rich and touching exploration of the vagaries of fortune, literary reputation and, above all, friendship that works on several levels at once. The soundtrack includes songs by Joy Division, New Order and Le Tigre. leave a comment --Ken Fox