Thursday, April 7, 2016
Interview: Joachim Trier
A third-generation filmmaker (his grandfather, Erik Løchen, was a well-known avant-garde director, and his parents both worked in film), Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier makes intelligently constructed movies, like Reprise and Oslo, August 31st, about the sometimes agonizing inner turmoil of characters whose lives seem deceptively calm on the surface. The plots of these films may sound uneventful, even banal, but Trier and his screenwriting partner Eskil Vogt's empathic understanding of their characters' emotions infuses his films with deep feeling. His latest, Louder Than Bombs, centers around a renowned war photographer, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), who died before the film opens. Still recovering from the shock and grief of losing Isabelle, her husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), and sons, Conrad (Devin Druid) and Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), are intermittently trying, and mostly failing, to help one another as they stumble separately toward emotional equilibrium. Trier met with me in New York this week to talk about the film, what skateboarding taught him about filmmaking, and why he loves revenge movies.
The two main characters in Reprise were novelists. In Louder Than Bombs, Isabella is a photographer, and Conrad is a socially awkward, sullen kid whose private writing is the only thing that reveals what he's thinking. Is there something about telling stories about storytellers that appeals to you?
I'm kind of interested in playing with “an open deck of cards” with the audience. I want to look into the process. In Reprise, it was the ambition and identity of a friendship. The two guys both have a shared dream, which they believe will make them who they want to become, yet life takes different turns for each of them, and it becomes a difficult thing to sustain that relationship. In this case, I think there's something about family and how we perceive and how we present ourselves in a family.
There's a lot about the consequences of lying, or keeping secrets.
Exactly. What you show and what you don't show. Even in the closest of relationships there might be that element of loneliness or separation, those gaps that we're not quit filling in, in terms of meeting each other and communication. And therefore, I thought it was interesting to have this idea of representation at play, like the little brother representing himself in his secret diary that he wants to show to a girl so she gets to know him properly, which is a very naïve but very sweet and innocent way of thinking about how we convey ourselves. In another way, the mother is completely on the other side of the spectrum. She's trying to convey stories of a humanist nature from conflict areas, yet she's also such a hidden person, and maybe idealized by the sons, particularly the older one. So I don't think it's that I'm so damn curious to tell stories about creative people. I think it's more that it gives me aspects for reflecting upon how we show ourselves or how we see others.
Read the rest in Slant Magazine