Film Review – ‘Louder Than Bombs’ (2016)

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Louder Than Bombs

With an ensemble cast, and dark context, ‘Louder Than Bombs‘ is eager to establish the notion that it’s narrative doesn’t depend on one single act, but is in fact about the repetitions and tendencies of human nature. It would be easy to read about the film, or watch the trailer, and assume that the entire narrative is dependant upon the death of the mother. In actual fact it is about so much more.

The initial scene focusses on Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) and Amy (Megan Ketch) in a hospital setting following the birth of their child. Thankfully, this isn’t fast-talky sophisticated Eisenberg we are used to from ‘The Social Network’ or ‘Batman vs Superman’. Instead we end up with a Jonah who is torn, and who means different things to different characters, as is evidenced early on as he bumps into ex-girlfriend Erin (Rachel Brosnahan) in the opening scenes.

Another narrative strand follows brother Conrad (Devin Druid), a withdrawn teenage whose difficulty in communication is highlighted by his seldom speech to his father, Gene (Gabriel Byrne) – who we also see in a variety of different predicaments.

The film refers back to the art and perspective (or imagined perspective) of the Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), who was a photographer; and partner, and mother to the respective characters. Her photographs detail the harsh realities of modern warfare in different territories, we see these as stills at different points. Her relationship to each character is explored through flashback sequences, up to the ever-changing view of her tragic death involving a car crash.

Louder Than Bombs‘ builds through separate means of storytelling and characterisation. This is through a rapid montage technique highlighting elements in use of voice over, game play, flashback, photography stills, and real time reactions in the dialogue during and after the montage plays out. This is most evident in relation to Conrad, whose mind is overactive and filled with thought that rarely escapes the word document Jonah reads from. Repetition is important to the film, as the perspectives change, and change again. To contrast this we get solid artefacts which are more obviously difficult to discredit. This being apparent in the physical photographs and film, and the files stored on the MacBook.

We also get a lot of different dream sequences, some in black and white, others in colour matching the rest of the film but only in small fragments – a few seconds at a time. The use of slow motion is impressive. It shows as a typical arthouse framing device initially, and most visibly to demonstrate the change in gaze depending on perspective.

From the vision of Joachim Trier, we get a fragmented set of narratives and a text which is obsessed with the idea of piecing together a resolved reality for each character. This is one of many merits of the film. In different hands this would turn into a movie in which we are sided with one character and are made to follow his journey from start to finish – we don’t get that here.

It is certainly thought provoking. There are laughs, although the comedy is always purposefully understated. The storytelling is unique, and fresh in articulation of taboo subjects. We get excellent performances all round. A must see.

[rating=5] | Zach Roddis

Drama | Norway/USA, 2015 | 12A | Soda Pictures | 22nd April 2016 (UK) | Dir.Joachim Trier |Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, Devin Druid, Amy Ryan