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An upfront study of a drug addict confronting his demons, Oslo, August 31st makes this dark journey worthwhile with fantastic directing and equally fantastic acting.
All Critics (66)
| Top Critics (30)
| Fresh (64)
| Rotten (2)
The beauty is in the array of animated faces in Anders' life. And it's in the simple promise and vitality of Anders' face, which serves the film without any regard for being in a film, let alone a tragedy or a poetic vision of darkness and futility.
With a predilection for long takes, alternating between tripod setups and handheld camera work that's reflective of Anders' unease, Trier presents life as an unceasingly tepid stream of the mundane -- with an occasional, exquisite pinprick of hope.
The movie transpires mostly in quiet, engrossing dialogue scenes, and its austere style shares a good deal in common with the protagonist, who seems both opaque and completely exposed.
[Displays] an invigoratingly acute understanding of the psychology of insecurity, longing, defensiveness and inward-turning rage.
"Oslo, August 31st" is quietly, profoundly, one of the most observant and sympathetic films I've seen.
A coolly observed yet boundlessly compassionate day in the life of a recovering drug addict, "Oslo, August 31st" breaks your heart many times over.
Director Joachim Trier sets in motion a progression of events and conversations that is simply inexorable, and can only ever lead to one destination. The question is, does Anders know where he's going? Is he nihilistic or simply lost?
While the themes here are also universal, the story feels more personal -- which also makes it more heartbreaking.
This is undoubtedly a bleak film, but it never verges into grim - it's more of a melancholic Before Sunrise-esque city tour.
A tough movie, intentionally unsatisfying. It only covers one day but that day feels endless; which is part of the point.
Unfortunately, Oslo, August 31 is more of a step sideways than anything else, taking the easy way out with a drug-addiction narrative that helps Trier circumvent any major risks and thus preventing him from reaping any major rewards.
What sets Oslo, August 31st apart is the way it entwines the personal with the city: [Joachim] Trier understands that your story is tangled up in the story of the city and that the story of the city is tangled up in the story of its inhabitants.
A poignant character study, melancholy and sad, about a man facing a desolate moment in his life when all hope seems lost, everything left is despair and he sees no reason to keep on trying, and it relies on a compelling performance by Anders Danielsen Lie.
"Oslo, August 31st" starts on the day before, as Anders(Anders Danielsen Lie) wakes up next to Malin(Malin Crepin). After which he goes for a walk before trying to drown himself. When that does not take, he goes back to the recovery house where he has been staying to get cleaned up and put on his dress sneakers for a job interview that day. Before which, he meets with Thomas(Hans Olav Brenner) and Rebecca(Ingrid Olava), two of Anders' friends from his party days.
"Oslo, August 31st" is a downbeat character study of somebody who has self-medicated for his depression and now finds that life has passed him by, with him not being the only one in that precarious position. The reality is that it is not over and that he can turn it around, even if he has blown his original advantages. The question remains how much he may want to without his ex-girlfriend Iselin. The movie remains ambiguous about whether the breakup caused his current extreme behavior or whether the behavior drove Iselin thousands of miles away. Just keep in mind that Anders' sister is not currently talking to him, either.
The sober rationality of the young Norwegian intellectual classes provides a perfectly blank canvas on which to paint the conversely complex neuroses of the anti-hero, Anders. Anders is an intelligent and gifted opinionist and writer, but his addiction has left him riddled with insecurity. The film focuses on the most pivotal moment of this young man's life as he's tragically stuck between recovery and regression: that moment is both sprinkled with glimmers of hope and drenched in melancholia. Anders' contradiction is the eternal paradox of the addict, and perhaps Trier is presenting it as an allegory of the modern human condition.
Anders Danielsen Lie gives an incredible performance as the enigmatic hero and the acting throughout is consistently authentic, convincing and engrossing. The soft-focus cinematography (Jakob Ihre) works well with a particularly engaging sound design which, along with very conscious direction, editing and general production design, makes for technically masterful cinema with an aesthetic that is both selectively minimal and enjoyably rich.
Oslo is a tragedy. Its simple, melancholic tone and metropolitan landscapes make the film undeniably reminiscent of the French New Wave - think Hiroshima Mon Amour in present day Oslo. The film is minimal and stylized, presenting social realism in an artistic form without losing any of its dramatic potency to surrealism. Utterly convincing and captivating, it's a shame this film hasn't made more noise because it certainly deserves your attention.
"Oslo, August 31st" is Joachim Trier's sequel to "Reprise," his explosively inventive but wildly uneven debut film that was released in the US in 2008. It's hard to believe that the two films are made by the same filmmaker.
Whereas "Reprise" had style and cinematic inventiveness oozing out of every pore, "Oslo" is flat and nearly devoid of style. It feels more like a TV movie.
It also shows that Trier is still suffering from the principal weakness that marred "Reprise": he's not good at developing stories. He's a talented director, but not a great screenwriter. "Oslo" captures a mood of despair supremely well. But once it depicts this mood, it doesn't have much to say about it. It just shows it. It describes the mood but has no analysis of it or even anything compelling to say about it. It is all Act 1, no Act 2.
If you remember from "Reprise," one of the young men in the gang becomes a literary sensation with his debut novel and then drifts inexplicably into mental illness. He is the main character of "Oslo." When the film opens, he is at an inpatient rehab center, trying to get off heroin, alcohol, and other drugs. We watch him leave the facility on his first free night out. When the patients seem ready, they are allowed to spend an evening on their own in the city.
He goes on several appointments, meeting up with friends and trying to cross paths with his estranged girlfriend. The difficulties he experiences capture exceptionally well his sadness and loneliness. It's not really clear that anyone loves him. But these visits become a bit episodic and repetitious and there are far too many bland sequences of him traveling through the city.
He ends up in a nightclub, which is the worst place for an addict in a fragile state to go. Temptations abound. The film ends on a harrowing but fairly predictable note.
Bottom line: I'd say that Joachim Trier is showing signs that he's having trouble maturing as an artist. I hope I'm wrong about this, but I think we might end up looking back at "Reprise" as Trier's one stand-out film. He's showing signs of being a one-hit wonder.
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