'Oslo, August 31st' Norwegian films glow these days, and one of the brightest directors in Norway's New Wave is Joachim Trier.
His second feature film "Oslo, August 31st" has already been praised in Europe. It’s now time for the U.S. to be blown away by the work of a young genius' existential odyssey.
Set in Oslo on a late summer day and night, the film keeps an ultra-tight focus on dark-minded Anders—a handsome, gifted 34-year-old writer from a good family. Anders is close to completing his drug rehab in the countryside. As part of the program, he is allowed to go into the city for a job interview. But he takes advantage of the leave and stays in the city, drifting around meeting people he hasn’t seen in a long time, and trying to adjust to the real world.
This personal road trip is a touching character study of a resourceful person who lost years of his life because of a lifestyle he couldn’t sustain—and it is nothing but a pure triumph.
Asides from the intelligent dialogue and sensitive directing, credit should be given to the lead actor, Anders Danielsen Lie. His naked face, which expresses a nuanced spectrum from lightness to darkness, is enough of a reason to see the film.
Adapted from the novel "Will O’ The Wisp" by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle—as was Louis Malle’s film "The Fire Within" (1963)— Joachim Trier built up the story so smoothly that the different stages of Anders day-long journey could, in each instance, be compared to melodic music. Trier debuted with the critically acclaimed "Reprise" (2006) and is true film junkie— you feel the traces of French master director Robert Bresson. Trier creates a spellbinding, even poetic, atmosphere using the beautiful city of Oslo in which Anders and the people around him seem to have it all—materialistic comfort, caring friends and good health—at least on the surface. Under the gilded surface, there is a huge inner vacuum and an underlying notion of being horribly trapped in a convention of how life is supposed to be lived. Trapped in an idea that doesn’t really work in reality. "Olso, August 31st" is set with a string of melancholia, but it mirrors something universal and timeless about love, loneliness, hope, emotional coldness, caring and despair. About life itself.
by Niclas Goldberg
New Directors/New Films Screenings at MoMA - "Oslo, August 31st"
Wednesday March 28, 8:30 p.m. at MoMA, Titus 1, 11 W 53 St., NYC 10019
Thursday March 29, 6:00 p.m. at Walter Reade Theater, 165 W 65 St, 4th Fl, NYC 10023
Coming to theaters: A Strand Releasing film.
For more info on the MoMA festival, see New Directors, New Films 2012