Denmark's Nikolaj Lie Kaas has led a cinematically charmed life. Bursting onto the scene with a key role in Lars Von Trier's The Idiots, Lie Kass has gone on to star in seemingly every major Scandanavian film since. Like Johnny Depp or Tadanobu Asano, Lie Kaas turns up in the occassional mainstream film to pay the bills but spends the bulk of his time jumping between art house projects helmed by a who's who of directing talents and between his immense skills as an actor and his seemingly unerring nose for quality scripts Lie Kaas' presence in a film is a virtual guarantee of quality.
Which brings us to Reconstruction. Lie Kaas takes the lead role in Christoffer Boe's beautifully surreal head trip of a debut feature, a film that deservedly earned Boe the Camera D'Or at Cannes and the Fipresci Best Director award, among others. In Boe Lie Kaas has met a talent that easily matches his own. There is no shortage of film making talent in this part of the world and this film instantly marks Boe as its most prominsing young talent.
Reconstruction begins brashly, with a heavily stylized piece of slight of hand and a voice over explaining that this is all cinema: it follows its own rules and has lttle bearing on factual, literal reality and yet it contaibs emotional truth. Havibg stated right up front that he intends to mess with the medium Boe then sets out to do just that, with dazzling results.
Lie Kaas plays Alex, a thirtysomething photographer in a long term relationship with Simone (Maria Bonnevie). Though Simone clearly loves him and he has no cause for complaint, Alex is restless. Familiarity has led to boredom and he wants the thrill of the new and forbidden. When he spots the beautiful Aimee - also played by Bonnevie - one night on the train he sees his chance and takes it. Aimee is the neglected wife of August, a famous novelist visiting Copenhagen to deliver a series of lectures and it is August who throws a wrench into the narrative.
While delivering his lectures August is working through the final details of his new novel, one that deals with an illicit romance between a woman named Aimee and a man named Alex. As August develops his writing the world of the film shifts and changes - sometimes subtly and sometimes dramatically - and it quickly becomes clear that Boe has lifted a device from Vonbegut's Breakfast of Champions and placed a writer as a sort of god within his own created world. The question then becomes what is 'real' and what is not. August certainly is and Aimee seems to be based in reality. But Alex? Simone? Are they actual people based on actual events or do they function as metaphors, constructs? And if the latter, what are they meant to represent?
Reconstruction works on a number of levels. It is a love story; a head game played between audience and director; a study of the creative process; musings on the connection - or lack thereof - between factual truth and emotional truth. It is the sort of film that could easily spin off into vapid pretentiosness but Boe's hand is too strong and subtle for that while Lie Kaas and Bonnevie deliver the strong, textured, deeply human performances needed to keep the characters from spinning off into sheer abstract theory. You know these people don't exist in the 'real world' and yet you have no problem believing that they are feeling and experiencing all you see on screen.
Boe brings the full bag of visual tricks to bolster his effort. He employs a broad range of shooting and editing styles to simultaneously build emotional punch while disorienting the audience. The man loves his over saturated colors and back-lit, high contrast shots and he packs the film full of visuals that would do Christopher Doyle proud. The unusual structure and use of amnesia as a key plot point make comparisons to Memento inevitable but Reconstruction is a far artier, more philosophical effort than Nolan's inverted revenge picture.
The DVD follows Palm's established pattern of solid presentation with few extras. The major features on this disc are interviews with the director and stars about the making of the film. The anamorphic transfer is solid, a 5.1 soundtrack is included and the subtitles are clearly translated and easy to read. I did experience an unusual hiccup with the subtitles when, on two occassions, the subs disappeared and were replaced by a series of horizontal white lines running across the entire screen. I'm not certain if this was a read error on the part of my player or some sort of hiccup on the disc itself but I could not get the problem to duplicate itself which makes me think it's a glitch with my player rather than a mastering issue. Regardless, a quick stop-start put things back to rights.
Boe is apparently working on his sophomore film now and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. Highly recommended.