By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
Yesterday we discussed how Embrace of the Serpent feels like a great, lost Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel adapted to the screen. Now with Louder than Bombs we have another film that feels like a Great Novel nobody ever wrote- perhaps we don’t need a publishing industry after all?
Just put on the Close Captions if ya want ter read. Gots to hold yer soda-pop.
This film follows the family of a famous war photographer (Isabelle Huppert), who died in a car crash two years previously, as they prepare for an art museum retrospective of her work and a bombshell of an article written by her former editor and lover (David Strathairn) contending, probably truthfully, that her death was a suicide. The father (Gabriel Byrne) must find a way to tell his volatile teenage son (Devin Druid) as his oldest, newly a father himself (Jesse Eisenberg) hides deep-seated issues of his own.
Louder than Bombs is a film focused on the interior life of its characters, a difficult enough task on the page, much less rendered visually. Norwegian director Joachim Trier and screenwriter Eskil Vogt, in their English language debuts no less, succeed spectacularly in this, creating a melange of dreams and memories, intermingled fantasy and realism, and pure, staggering emotion. They deploy both expertly staged visual and aural filmcraft, from the shearing slow-motion car crash to the electronica-scored ballet of of cheerleaders tumbling through the air- straight out of American Beauty and yet not- and cleverly structured screenwriting, replaying scenes from different points of view, often with different narrators, as a way to show the fundamental disconnects between their characters and play with our, the viewers’, expectations of the same.
Well, besides Eisenberg playing a neurotic nebbish. Some things never change.
Of course, this would not be possible without a cast that could keep up, and across the board it does. Huppert is asked to act primarily in closeup and through her expressions and shows why she’s one of the finest actresses on Earth, and Gabriel Byrne matches her in a career-best turn. Eisenberg again shows why he’s seemingly everywhere, from dramas to stoner comedies to massive blockbusters, but its his little bro played by Druid who steals the show in a coming of age arc that could’ve sustained an entire film of its own.
Even bit players David Strathairn and Amy Ryan impress in their minimally yet masterfully sketched roles. Casting the 48-year old Ryan as a character in her “late 30s” just about shows Trier’s and Vogt’s strings- what screams “Great Novel Adaptation” quite like an obvious yet somehow effective miscast?
Although you can go too far with it…
Louder than Bombs is a stunning work of writing and filmmaking maturity. Trier and Vogt are names you’ll hear a lot more of, very soon.
Louder than Bombs (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each jaw-dropping photograph
Take a Drink: for each bad decision
Take a Drink: for each change in perspective
Do a Shot: for the crash