This film is my first experience of watching something by renowned Norwegian director & writer Joachim Trier. With his newest feature Louder Than Bombs starring Jesse Eisenberg being released later this year, I wanted to familiarise myself with his work and see what was in store for us further down the line.
Quiet, subdued and contemplative, Oslo, 31st August follows a former addict in rehab played brilliantly by Anders Danielson Lie, displaying suicidal tendencies in the opening scene only to pick himself back up to an extent and spend a day in Oslo. He is granted a day release, tells the rehab clinic that it is for a job interview, and heads off to the city where we assume it all went wrong.
Anders sits quietly, contemplating his next move in life, reflecting on where is right now. Effectively shown in a scene where he places himself in a coffeehouse, like his existence he remains out of focus, but Anders is all too focussed on the trivial conversations taking place around him. These conversations mean nothing, they hold no value, and he simply sits, and exists.
As he purposefully walks from place to place, we are treated to long, often busy shots of the bustling city of Oslo. Throughout his day, he meets people from the past and seeks out others he wants to make amends with. The enablers, the people he has hurt, the people he has loved and family, as he quietly goes about his day attempting to articulate how far he has come, yet words cannot quite do justice to the emotional turmoil he experiences.
It is an understated movie, and remains largely silent with the exception for occasional scenes of dialogue, which draw you in with Anders’ honest and sincere demeanour. He is an investable character, creates genuine sympathy and with his mere existence on-screen he generates unspoken, ultimately saddening emotions with an undercutting sense of helplessness.
Never have I seen a film deal with suicide and addiction in such an open way. Oslo, August 31st is a truly special film, simple in its execution but a complex character study nonetheless. It takes a team of really talented individuals to be able to convey the vast sounds and sights of a capital city, and yet create intimacy with our central character on the scale that is achieved in this film.
Minimalist, artistic, technically beautiful. A simply fascinating slice of indie cinema.