TIFF 2015: Louder Than Bombs
There’s an inherent paradox when it comes to family: despite spending more time with your parents/siblings than anyone else, you’ll never get to truly know who these people are. Joachim Trier’s Louder than Bombs, his follow-up to the devastating masterpiece Oslo August 31, explores the collisions between the individual, subjective experiences of family members, along with the barriers of communication that can spring up between the people closest to you. The film starts approximately three years after the death of Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert), a war photographer who took her own life by crashing her car. Isabelle’s husband Gene (Gabriel Byrne) and eldest son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) know the truth surrounding her death, but her 15-year-old son Conrad (Devin Druid) still thinks it was an accident. Now, with Isabelle’s former colleague (David Strathairn) planning to reveal the truth about her death in a piece he’s planning for the New York Times, Gene tries to tell the truth to Conrad while attempting to repair the relationship between his two sons.
Trier and co-writer Eskil Vogt continue to show off their strength as filmmakers when it comes to experimenting with form to accurately portrayal the thought process. The film frequently swaps perspectives between Gene, Jonah and Conrad, while also hopping back and forth through time to when Isabelle was alive. Through this, it’s apparent that each man has a different idea of who Isabelle was, and the way these differing interpretations intersect is when Louder than Bombs hits a level of specificity that creates some great drama. But when Trier decides to break away and show the stories of each individual—Gene’s secret relationship with one of Conrad’s teachers (Amy Ryan), Jonah’s fear of becoming a father, and Conrad’s crush on a cheerleader that’s out of his league—it falls into clichés that wind up making the film get lost within itself. It’s disappointing because, when Trier’s methods do work, he creates some heart-wrenching and sublime moments (an extreme close-up of a character staring the camera down will haunt viewers for days). If Trier had more moments like these, Louder than Bombs could have been the masterpiece it so obviously wants to be.