« Critical Art Ensemble Petition | Main | Four Word Film Review »

June 13, 2004

[AFF] Reconstruction

Reconstruction is a meticulously directed film by young Danish filmmaker, Christoffer Boe, who won the 2003 Camera d'or at the Cannes Film Festival for this film. The film's plot defies description. The film opens with Fred Astaire's version of "Night and Day" playing non-diegetically while grainy shots of Copenhagen at night, some in time-lapse, establish the film's meditation on uncertainty. We cut to a magician who defies gravity by seeming to suspend a lit cigarette in midair while a voice-over reminds us that, even though we may respond emotionally to the stories of the characters, the film is merely a "construction." The film itself reflects philosophically on the nature of identity and memory, reminding me of Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad and to a different extent, Kieslowski's Blind Chance.

I'm going to explain the plot in some detail here, in part to simply better sort through my interpretation of the film. After the opening sequence, we are then introduced to the film's four central characters, Alex (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a young man in his early thirties; his girlfriend, Simone (Maria Bonnevie); an older novelist, August (Krister Henriksson); and his wife, Aimee (also played by Bonnevie). Alex, in one of teh film's first scenes, approaches Aimee in a bar, immediately striking up a conversation, immediately asking her to go to Rome with him. She smiles and says she can't; she doesn't know him, it's too soon. Alex insists that there is a spark of recognition, that they do know each other, and the familiarity between them is emphasized by close-ups that include both of them in a single shot.

Later, Alex goes to meet Simone; they've clearly been together a long time, but the relationship seems to be lacking intensity. He only tells Simone he loves her when prodded, and the camera seems more distant here, reducing the intimacy between them. Later, the two of them catch a train when Alex spots Aimee from a distance. He ditches Simone and eventually has a one-night stand with Aimee and makes plans to meet her the following day. The next day, however, something has changed. When he returns to the apartment he shares with Aimee, the entrance to the apartment is gone, and his landlady doesn't recognize him. Later in the park, his father says he doesn't know him. Finally, Simone herself fails to recognize Alex, though she does seem drawn to him. The decision to cast the same actress for both roles becomes significant here, as it adds to the films meditation on identity. In part, the film seems to suggest that falling in love changes one's world completely, but I think the film complicates that notion considerably.

In addition to Alex's story, we also learn a little about August, the famous novelist. He is writing a novel that seems remarkably similar to some of teh events taking place in the film. In addition, it is his voice-over that introduced the film's constructedness. Are these characters simply ideas from his novel, with August experimenting with the emotional effect of certain events? The film never answers this question, but it certainly raises the possibility. I won't reveal how the film concludes the plot, but the final shot of Reconstruction reprises the image of the magician, still in black-and-white, the cigarette still floating in air, when the cigarette suddenly flashes creating a giant puff of smoke, the magician disappearing behind it. In this closing sequence, Boe also reprises Astaire's "Night and Day," completing the circle of this fascinating film.

Posted by chuck at June 13, 2004 12:38 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)