“Louder than Bombs” is a quiet masterpiece

Joachim Trier’s surreal drama pulls at the audience’s heartstrings.



Kyle Kohner, Writer

More than halfway into the film “Louder than Bombs,” the ghost of a wife and mother, played by Isabelle Huppert, glares into a mirror with a look of subdued yet distraught pain — a look that perfectly defines the dominant theme in ”Louder than Bombs.”

Quiet, explosive depression

The plot centers around a wife and war journalist Isabella Reed, who commits suicide, causing her family emotional trauma years later.

Norwegian film director Joachim Trier perforates this mesmerizing drama with subdued surprises. Trier moves viewers along with reticent expectancies only to maneuver those expectancies unexpectedly yet quietly.

“Louder than Bombs” borrows its title from an album by The Smiths, and hints at how quiet yet explosive depression and internal pain can be.

The characters are constructed so well that an enigma surrounds them. The characters in this film seem surreal yet relatable in their respective struggles. The viewer wants to believe the situations the characters go through are beyond earthly control, however, the problems hit close to home because the characters are so identifiable.

A pleasant surprise

I was pleasantly surprised by Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Jonah as it is usually hard to disconnect Eisenberg from his repetitive play of the same neurotic and nerdy character. In this role, Eisenberg plays a fresh-out-of-college sociology professor who recently became a father. He seems to reject the reality of his mother’s suicide and her past affairs when rummaging through her dark room. He also rejects the reality of fatherhood when he delays his return to his wife and fails to bring his child along to see his/her grandfather.

It is the role of Jonah itself that seems to mature Eisenberg’s acting style overnight. Yes, there remains hints of that neuroticism and ho-hum style Eisenberg practically coined, but the growth is present. Eisenberg’s role in this film should make viewers excited for this year’s Cannes Film Festival opener, “Cafe Society,” directed by Woody Allen.

Devin Druid provides a breakout performance in his role as Conrad, a troubled adolescent deeply affected by his mother’s death. Conrad embodies what this film tries to convey — the quiet, agonizing pain that exists in a broken family.

An eerie feel

Trier showers audiences with eerie dream sequences, symbolizing a separation from family lifestyle. Cinematographer Olivier Bugge Coutté helps carry this movie’s greatness. Coutté’s seamless and fluid editing between flashbacks and current happenings helps create Trier’s intended eerie feel.

One of these sequences makes for one of the best scenes in the movie, where Conrad has a visually and spiritually enhancing flashback, invoked by the reading of his crush, Melanie, during class.

The flashbacks provide a back and forth journey through his delusion of how his mother, Isabelle, died in a wreck. In fact, the editing of the wreck scene is so aesthetically pleasing that one might feel guilty for finding beauty in something so drastically horrid.

The narrative unravels in a nonlinear style. Coutté brings smoothness to flashbacks and past memories, which are obscured by the present characters’ emotions and conflicts. Coutté’s technique adds to the ambiguity of reality in the movie.

The minimalistic tension of the film is augmented by the ambient musical score by Ola Fløttum’s. Fløttum’s score works well with Coutté’s seamless editing, making for a cohesive film.

In reality, this film will not contend for many awards due to its limited release and its lack of an A-list actor or actress. However, “Louder than Bombs” will go down as one of Eisenberg’s best performances, making for an instant cult classic.

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