Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st
good thing about being a self-destructive junkie is that you never have to take
responsibility. A case in point, one drug
addict will blame everyone but himself for the hash he made of his life in Joachim
Trier’s Oslo, August 31st (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York at the IFC Center.
kicks off the film with a voice-over montage of the fond memories and lasting
friendships various narrators forged in the Norwegian capital. Anders is not one of them. He is a user who has run out of people to
use. Though his release from rehab is
imminent, he nonetheless flirts with suicide in an opening scene. Instead, he sticks to the plan formulated for
him, making his first day trip return to Oslo for an interview with a literary
magazine. Once a talented writer, Anders
drops some promising soundbites, but when the discussion predictably turns to
the gaps in his resume, he loses his cool.
this point on, Anders goes off his counselor’s script, catching up with old
friends and revisiting the scenes of his not-so past life. Given his reputation, nobody is very happy to
see him, except the married Thomas, perhaps his one remaining true friend. Needless to say, Anders is not looking to
spread a lot of joy as he falls back into old habits, while repeatedly leaving thinly
veiled cry-for-help messages for an ever-so unfortunate ex-girlfriend.
overriding point of OA31 is that it
is all entirely Andres’ fault. Trier
presents Oslo as a beautiful city of just the right size—big enough to be cosmopolitan,
but small enough to foster close, meaningful relationships. All around him, Anders observes evidence of
everyday people making the sort of connections he chose to spurn.
though the back of his head is Trier’s preferred focal point through the film,
Anders Danielsen Lie is an intense screen presence as his namesake. There is nothing more pathetic than the
formerly cool and he projects that surly misery perfectly. There are also some nice supporting turns
fleshing out the film, but they all enter and exit quite quickly. Yet, Anders Borchgrevink supplies what might
be the film’s defining moment in one of its briefest roles. Appearing as Øystein, a bitter acquaintance
of Anders, he reminds the junkie character and the audience of his problematic
nature, lest we start to fall for his appeals for pity.
In a sense, the naturalistic virtues of OA31 limit its dramatic
effectiveness. So resolute is Trier in
denying Anders the sympathy he craves, his ultimate tragedy leaves viewers
cold. Nonetheless, the film
simultaneously serves as an appealing valentine to the clean and sparkling
title city, which is quite an unusual stylistic twofer to pull off. An appropriately chilly Nordic morality tale,
well executed in the uncomfortably intimate Cassavetes tradition, Oslo August 31st is
recommended for sophisticated cineastes when it opens this Friday (5/25) at the
Labels: Joachim Trier, Scandinavian Cinema