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Louder Than Bombs

Clayton Lin: Weighing In

Louder Than Bombs

Andrew Ryan

Director: Joachim Trier

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert, Gabriel Byrne, Devin Druid

Louder Than Bombs is the sort of movie that invokes a calm meditation on the intricacies of the human condition.

On this point, it is a well-executed piece of cinema that treats its characters intelligently, combined with moments of the sublime- especially on the visual level- it is a stimulating cinematic feast.

Louder than Bombs follows the story of the Reed family trying to cope with the death of their matriarch, Isabelle Joubert Reed (Huppert), an eminent conflict photographer. The father, Gene (Byrne) and his two sons, Jonah (Eisenberg) and Conrad (Druid) remember the woman very, very differently, and each tries to resolve their feelings as they try to cope with their grief.

The disjointed, yet very contained, compact narrative structure holds the film together, which interweaves between dreams, thoughts, the present and the past, and is easy to follow.

The film is primarily a character study of three different people- each trying to cope with their current preoccupations. Not even for one second does it dare drop into well-worn cliches, but analyses each character to explore why they do what they do. As a gamer, I really enjoyed the touch of using the Elder Scrolls Online footage to really convey a sense of Conrad's inner monologue- reminiscent of a 2007 film called Reign Over Me (Adam Sandler in one of his serious roles), in which another (brilliant) video game was used respectfully to tell the film's story.

Some of the scenes in the film are visually stunning, and beautifully shot, almost reminding me of Terence Malick's Tree of Life, although Louder than Bombs is far more constrained and coherent, even though when it cuts to internal monologue, the quick pace of the montage reminds one of the Qatsi trilogy. Overall, even if one didn't understand what the film was about, the cinematography is at the very least, beautiful and admirable. The film's use of the war footage (kindly donated by a number of galleries and private collectors) helped convey the sense of authenticity (in context of establishing character).

The score is quiet, contemplative, very fitting with the theme of the film's story. The sound design is at best with the dreamy, introspective moments of each character.

Louder Than Bombs is a very European take on a very American genre. It's the perfect example of a film meant for intelligent audiences without veering over into pretension.

***

Louder Than Bombs is screening at Cinema Paradiso as of Aug. 11