Tuesday, January 01, 2013

THE LAST MOVIE OF 2012: OSLO, AUGUST 31st



Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31st, is a bracing, sustained feat of empathy. A young recovering drug addict named Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) once again finds himself on the streets of the city where he grew up, and where his life slowly derailed, after being released from the recovery center he's about to graduate from for a job interview. The faint, encouraging glow of warmth from each encounter with old acquaintances, which he hopes will help introduce a new beginning, is soon replaced with a chilling sting when those embers fail, one by one, to fully ignite. From the beginning Trier deftly defines the protagonist against his environment-- nature provides no solace, and nor, finally, does the buzz of life in Oslo, filled as it is with people whose lives seem just starting, unencumbered by weight, by ghosts. Every frame Anders shares with friends and passers-by begins to feel more like a haunting, a constant reminder of connections long ago short-circuited and, of course, the ever-present option of the one spark that might take him to where he really wants to go. Oslo, August 31st is a movie that is profoundly sad but never suffocating or sensational-- it's a portrayal of an addict whose primary physical need is expressed almost exclusively in humanistic, spiritual terms and imagery, a need eloquently written on Anders' long, angular face, in his tired eyes, on the streets which course with the promise, and the denial, of sweet release.

******************************************

3 comments:

Dusty McGowan said...

Great review!

Wow, talk about a way to take yourself of the year on an "up" note.

I had the privilege of seeing this film in a relatively empty theater, projected on a large screen. It's very hard to pinpoint why this film so effective. Everything is so deceptively simple, quiet, and understanding. Yet what you are watching (as you astutely pointed out) is a man reconciling with all of his past mistakes and missed opportunities. It's heavy stuff, but nothing becomes overwhelming.

By the way, this movie is available on Netflix Instant.

Happy new year! I've been following your blog since you were interviewed by Rupert Pupkin. Always look forward to your entries.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Dusty, I really appreciate your comment and your enthusiasm, for the movie and for my blog.

You're right-- Oslo August 31st is not exactly a cheerful party-hats-and-favors way of sending out the old, and I certainly didn't purposefully position it to be the movie I chose to signify the start of a new year. But in a way it's an appropriate choice, or coincidence, if you will, because the movie is so much about wrestling with the past and at least the impulse to reconcile yourself with it and forge ahead. The engagement with this idea renders the success, or lack thereof, on the part of Anders is certainly poignant and devastating, but secondary to whether or not the movie itself is "uplifting" in the way we might think a piece of art meant to send us into a new voyage should be.

So it's exhilarating and awful at the same time. An amazing movie which, as you rightly point out, works its alchemy with deceptive ease and nonchalance. I loved it even more for the fact that it was precisely the opposite of what someone like Darren Aronofsky might do with the same scenario.

And yeah, Netflix Instant is how I saw it too! I wish I could have seen it the way you did.

Thanks for sticking with SLIFR and for your thoughts!

Dusty McGowan said...

My pleasure, Dennis. I look forward to your entries in 2013. And I hope more people find OSLO. It sounds like what we are both talking about is catharsis above all else.

On a related note, have you ever heard a book called THE MOVIE DOCTOR? It's written by a psychologist who prescribes movies to his patients. I wonder what he would say about OSLO.