Louder Than Bombs
Director: Joachim Trier
Writer: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, Devin Druid, Isabelle Huppert, David Strathairn, Amy Ryan, Rachel Brosnahan, Ruby Jerins, Megan Ketch
Seen on: 14.1.2016
It’s been three years that war photographer Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert) died in a car crash. An upcoming exhibition of her work that will come with an article by her colleague and friend Richard Weissman (David Strathairn) in which he will out her death as a suicide, brings the unresolved tension her death caused in the Reed family to the foreground again: her widower Gene is struggling with rebuilding his life, but especially with his relationship with his sons: his younger son Conrad (Devin Druid) is withdrawn and doesn’t know that his mother most likely killed herself. Gene’s older son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) comes to town to sort through his mother’s unpublished photos, also conveniently escaping his own life for a while. All three have very different opinions not only on what Isabelle was like, but also how they should deal with her death.
Louder than Bombs tries to be many things at once and maybe it tries a little too much. But even though there is a flightiness about it where it would have needed more decisiveness, it is an engaging film.
Louder Than Bombs is practically the epitome of an artsy film – not that much dialogue, heavy topic, political ideas examined through a microcosm, slow and calm narrative style (a quick and certainly not infallible attempt at defining “artsy film”). What does set itself apart from many films of its like are the fantastical elements that find their way into the story every once in a while, dream images and symbolic impressions, nicely captured by cinematographer Jakob Ihre.
I also very much liked the Reed family and their organic, realistic family structure. Gene’s attempts to connect with his sons and vice versa, Conrad and Jonah’s way of relating to each other and Conrad’s puberty that just makes everything a tad more difficult were nicely captured. It’s a family who apparently very desperately want to communicate but more often than not fail to find a way to do so – so Gene stalks Conrad, Conrad writes an extensive (and very teenaged) diary and Jonah tries to connect with Isabelle through her photographs.
Even though the film has many strengths and even manages to be funny every once in a while, it didn’t quite blow me away. It has big ambitions and it doesn’t quite manage to do right by all of them. The dream images, while beautiful, never really tie into the story. The women in the Reed men’s lives remain marginalized, with the exception, maybe, of Isabelle – who is central to the story, but more as an idea than a person.
Although the film could have been a little better, it could have been way worse, too. In any case I enjoyed watching it and was honestly touched more than once throughout the film. And how often can we really say that?