“Reconstruction,” Denmark’s official entry in the Academy Awards’ foreign film sweepstakes, will find the most willing audience among cinemaphiles open to minimalism and less rigid storytelling.
Set in Copenhagen, “Reconstruction” gives us a couple who meets on the subway and enjoys a one-night stand, her husband and his girlfriend notwithstanding. Shortly after leaving Aimee (Marie Bonnevie) in her hotel room, Alex (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) goes home and finds that nobody seems to remember him, and his apartment has been turned into a locked crawl space.
It is this twist—right out of the “Twilight Zone”—that aids the story, not because you want to find out why this has happened to him, but to see how Alex deals with this situation. In the course of the film, Alex is forgotten by both Aimee and his girlfriend Simone, also played by Bonnevie—talk about minimalism—and winds up winning them both over again.
Adding to the confusion is August Holm (Krister Henriksson) as an author who is Aimee’s husband. At times, you are not sure if the story is the stream of consciousness of Holm as he writes, or if he’s writing this later as a memoir.
What makes “Reconstruction” a joy for viewers open to this sort of jumbled narrative is that it stays with its theme, and uses a lot of interesting cinematographic choices to convey what Alex is feeling, rather than what’s happening. While the story is often all over the place, with past and present confused, Alex finds both Simone and Aimee attracted to him, even if they don’t seem to remember him.
“Reconstruction” ponders the meaning of true love and couples who were “meant to be together,” over and over again, as it were. Boe uses a lot of graininess to accentuate the confusion Alex experiences, as well as shooting some extreme close ups, especially during the one-night stand, to help keep the viewers focused on the characters. The film unmistakably lives in the moment.
“Reconstruction” is not for everyone, but its free-form storytelling lets moviegoers come away with their own impressions, and avoids turning technique into gimmick, the way a similar film, “Memento” uses backwards storytelling to trick the viewers into decoding a puzzle, rather than really concentrating on what’s happening on screen.