LOUDER THAN BOMBS (Norway | France | Denmark/15A/105mins)
Directed by Joaquim Trier.Starring Isabelle Huppert, Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, Devin Druid.
THE PLOT: Four years after the death of a famed war photographer (Isabelle Huppert), her family are still dealing with her death to varying degrees. When a New York Times journalist promises to write an article about the late photographer, revealing the truth about her death, the family is left to deal with the implications of the truth.
THE VERDICT: Another first English language feature at Cannes, this time from Danish director Joaquim Trier, whose previous film OSLO, AUGUST 31ST won acclaim at the festival in 2011. The story seems rather simple, and in some ways it is, but it also feels a little too close to Juliette Binoche’s A THOUSAND TIMES GOODNIGHT, which was only released in Ireland last year.
Isabelle Huppert appears in flashback, as the family try to reconcile the past and the future. She is magnetic as usual, but feels more like a catalyst than a fully rounded character. Gabriel Byrne plays the grieving and rather bewildered father of two sons; one of whom appears to have his life together, and the other whose teen life is falling apart. Jesse Eisenberg plays Jonah, the older of the two sons, who arrogantly believes that his life is on track, but soon realises that this is not the case. Eisenberg has a brilliantly comic opening scene, but this falls by the wayside as the film goes on. Devin Druid plays the younger son Conrad as angry and sulky – a typical ten, one might say – who has a vein of narcissism running through him. The cast do well enough with what they are given, but are let down by a baffling and rather pointless story.
Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt’s screenplay attempts to deal with the varying degrees of grief, and how emotions and grief becomes dulled the more time passes. While the film starts off well and seems to be working toward a satisfying emotional resolution, this never truly comes to pass, and the road to the final act of the film is so littered with actions and moments that never really connect.
As director, Trier tries to tie the family’s individual stories together, as secrets about the past are revealed and emotions change due to the passage of time, but the uneventful and muddled screenplay works against him. There are some moments of greatness, such as Conrad’s stream of consciousness letter that he gives to his crush is beautifully realised, but this moment never truly connects, and is never resolved in the framework of the film.
In all, LOUDER THAN BOMBS implies, from its title, that the emotional fallout of war and death is truly devastating, but all we see in the film are selfish characters making strange decisions, and a fragmented story that never truly comes together.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Louder Than Bombs
Review by Brogen Hayes
2.0Never comes together
  • Andreas De Brito Jonassen

    The director is Norwegian, not Danish. And his name is written Joachim, not Joaquim, which is the spanish way of writing.

  • filmbuff2011

    The secrets that lie buried in a family waiting to spring forth form the basis of Louder Than Bombs, an intricately structured family drama from director Joachim Trier.

    Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) was the matriarch of a family. She was also a successful war photographer who had a way of capturing the essential truth and opposing views of a tense situation. She also liked to reframe other photographs to change their perspective. Several years after her death in a car crash, her former husband Gene (Gabriel Byrne) is still coming to terms with what actually happened. Isabelle’s colleague Richard (David Strathairn) is writing a tribute article to her which will reveal the real cause of Isabelle’s death: suicide. Gene has accepted this and his older son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), who is expecting a child with his wife, knows. However, his younger son Conrad (Devin Druid) is unaware of what really happened. Now that he’s old enough, Gene will have to tell Conrad. However, relations between them are fractious and Conrad has escaped the reality of his broken family by playing video games and ignoring his father. Gene’s flirtations with Conrad’s teacher Hannah (Amy Ryan) don’t help the situation either…

    The third feature from Trier is a reflection on the impact of loss and bereavement on other family members – the title is possibly an allusion to this. Memories live on, but how are they viewed from a different perspective? Memories of a woman who ended her life when she seemed to have reached a highpoint in her career. How do the characters re-frame their memories of their mother once they realise that she wanted to leave them behind to pick up the pieces? It’s a thought-provoking question that drives this intelligent and observant dissection of modern family life. One key scene in the film shows Gene following Conrad to find out what he’s really up to. Later on, the scene is shot from Conrad’s perspective to make the point that Gene really doesn’t know his youngest son very well. This is a flawed family that is still hurting and licking its wounds, but doesn’t know where to find the bandages.

    Trier’s direction is firm throughout, as he reveals Isabelle to the audience. We get to know her along with the characters. More scenes with Huppert wouldn’t have gone amiss here though. What we get are just snapshots of her character as the story moves back and forth through two different time periods. It feels a bit fragmented as a result. A more detailed introduction early on would make the impact of Isabelle’s death feel a bit more meaningful. Byrne, Eisenberg and Druid give quiet, intense performances, portraying a nuclear family going into meltdown. It doesn’t always work, but Louder Than Bombs is a mostly satisfying drama that is just shy of hitting the mark. ***