Have I witnessed the continuation of one of the world’s exciting new filmmakers? Joachim Trier’s directorial debut, Reprise, wasn’t exactly what I would call a stunner, but it received critical attention, as well as becoming Norway’s official foreign language entry to the Academy Awards. It wasn’t until Oslo, August 31st that I saw a filmmaker I wanted to keep an eye on. While a dour film, Oslo manages to be a devestatingly horrific portrait of drug addiction and the past. But you’d expect that from a film loosely based on The Fire Within.
Louder Than Bombs focuses on the aftermath of a family in ruins. Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) has recently died in a car collision leaving behind her husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), and two sons, Conrad (Devin Druid) & Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg). While they’re all in the midst of relationships and misunderstandings, they, of course, need to come together to go through Isabelle’s things for a focus on her life’s work.
The premise of this film really doesn’t sound like it would turn into the best movie. Clichés would generally be abound, but Trier knows better than to aim towards them. Surprisingly, voiceover is used wonderfully as an outlook from each characters perspective, without overstaying its welcome. Scenes collide together without feeling forced and, while these scenes may feel seperate, the change never feels jarring between characters. All their problems are on display, but never explicitly heard, especially by those on screen.
Acting across the board is incredibly strong. If there’s anything that all of us should know, it’s that Isabelle Huppert is always great and I shouldn’t have to tell you that. Jesse Eisenberg is almost jarring as a character that’s a fully formed and responsible adult (for the most part). David Straitharn, Amy Ryan, and Rachel Brosnahan are also superb as their respective characters. While Gabriel Byrne may be playing another version of his character from In Treatment*, I really can’t complain.
Louder Than Bombs has some incredible imagery. Isabelle Huppert’s character floats in the air in a small dream sequence and they speak louder than…well you know what I mean. Whether it’s in the smaller moments or bigger, almost every moment feels true in the way it is shown. I almost felt uncomfortable looking at them in such intimate moments, almost like a two way mirror.
If there’s something I can’t stress enough, it’s how powerful the script is. Co-written by Eskil Vogt and Trier, every character has their moment to show their humanity and flaws within them. What could have become a family melodrama becomes more through the way these characters interact, or don’t. The way Trier works around his characters almost belongs in the best novels. Writing like this is rarely seen.
Trier’s first English language film has managed the jump from his prior Norwegian affairs. Equally as powerful as Oslo, but with a little more humour, Bombs is truly something to see. If you ever feel alone or scared of the people around you, as I can occasionally feel, this film is for you. It’s probably best to not watch this with your family though.
*I really love In Treatment. I should watch those other seasons now.