Oslo, August 31st ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of scenes from Oslo, August 31st. Central image is the theatrical poster for the film.

🇳🇴 OSLO, AUGUST 31st 🇳🇴

Oslo, August 31st (2011) is a Norwegian drama feature film. Available on Prime Video U.K. to rent/buy £2.49/£6.99; AppleTV, Prime Video USA rent/buy; AppleTV Can rent/buy. 1 hour 35 min. Cert 15 U.K. Norwegian with English subtitles.

Premise:

“One day in the life of Anders, a young recovering drug addict, who takes a brief leave from his treatment centre to interview for a job and catch up with old friends in Oslo.”

Cast:

Anders Danielsen Lie as Anders
Hans Olan Brenner as Thomas
Ingrid Olava as Rebekka
Malin Crépin as Malin
Aksel Thanke as Therapist
Øystein Røger as David
Tone Beate Mostraum as Tove
Kjærsti Odden Skjeldal as Mirjam
Petter Width Kristiansen as Petter
Johanne Kjellevik Ledang as Johanne

A handwritten style theatrical poster for the film Oslo, August 31st. It features an image of a slightly decaying white rose.

Crew:

Director: Joachim Trier
Writers: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Composer: Torgny Amdam, Ola Fløttum
Cinematographer: Jakob Ihre
Editor: Olivier Bugge Coutté
Production Designer: Jørgen Stangebye Larsen
Art Director: Solfrid Kjetså
Costume Designer: Ellen Dæhli Ystehede
Sound Designer: Gisle Tveito

Theatrical poster for the film Oslo, August 31st worded Oslo 31 Aug

Notes:

This film is the second in a trilogy sitting between Reprise (2006) and The Worst Person in the World (2021).

The story is based on the novel “Le feu follet” by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle.

Reprise was co-written by Trier and Eskil Vogt. In fact, he works with a team and has done since the beginning. As he said [to Metal Magazine in 2015] when asked to offer advice for wannabe directors “Never make movies alone! That’s key for me, the collaboration. I always wanted to be in a band, but now I have my band when I make movies. I have my cinematographer, editor, co-writer, we are in a group working together. I need them. I can’t do anything alone. You can do that either in Film School or out of Film School, but train with the group.”

His ’Team’ are co-writer Eskil Vogt, cinematographer Jakob Ihre, editor Olivier Bugge Coutté and actor Anders Danielsen Lie.

English-language theatrical poster for the film Oslo August 31st

Review:

I watched Reprise not that long ago and since The Worst Person in the World should soon be available I thought this the ideal opportunity to visit Oslo, August 31st. I have now watched this film twice in fairly quick succession and this is something I can recommend; I got even more out of it the second time.

This movie opens with a set of still and moving images of Oslo in the ‘80s and recorded clips from interviews with people of their memories of Oslo. One recalls arriving and being struck by how tall the trees were compared to the north, another remembers her bed would not fit in her new flat, another talks of going to parties that they were not sure were on or that they were even invited to. The film is bookended by another segment of the start of the day in Oslo with trams in the streets and still locations which have figured throughout the film leaving no trace of the day before.

Anders Danielsen Lie as Anders stands at a window looking out with arms wide open on the curtains in a scene from Oslo, August 31st

This short segment of the film leads us into Anders, our protagonist, waking up next to a young woman in bed, getting up and opening the curtains to the dawn of a new day… What happens next is very disturbing and is an underlying drive for the rest of the movie.

I really enjoy a film that engages the audience with a tight narrative storyline and Oslo, 31st August does just this. It takes a day in the life of a recovering addict (drugs, alcohol, heroin… pretty much anything) Anders from the dawn of August 30th to the early morning of August, 31st.

This, as with Reprise, is a character-driven film. Anders takes us is in an intimate, highly realistic journey through a day in his life. We accompany him to group therapy, to visit an old friend and his family, a job interview, parties, meeting a young woman, an open-air swimming pool, a meeting with his sister’s partner, into his parents’ house etc.

Anders Danielsen Lie as Anders and Hans Olan Brenner as Thomas in a scene from Oslo, August 31st. Here they sit next to each other on a bench. Anders is smoking a cigarette.

All pervasive through this is Anders’ mental state, his “self-sabotage button”, his apathy, his occasional humour, his deep sadness… and his potential, a potential he does not admit to. This is one very deeply disturbed man who, in his early 30s could still do something with his life, but does not do so. He believes himself to be unloved, is seemingly incapable of loving himself – or at least that is what he says to himself and others – basically a waste of space and air.

Memory and how memories affect our here and now is a theme that ran deeply through Reprise and it does so too in Oslo, August 31st. Partway through, in the same way as the start we have Anders relating his memories of his father and mother parents, their views and attitudes which often strike as contradictory and yet, this couple still love each other.

Anders tries to recapture a past affair, calling his ex several times on and off through the film. He sees himself often as a victim and receives some very unpleasant home truths. The meeting with his old friend shows how one is happy with being a bit not happy whereas Anders cannot break free from the thrall of depression, addiction and the feeling that he is unwanted, unnecessary and life is utterly pointless. No one will miss him and they are all better off without him.

He views life often as a spectator with it passing him by while he is so wrapped up with his internal feelings or lack of them. There is a scene in a cafe where he is listening into many separate conversations which epitomes this. He also hears a young woman read a list of what she hopes to do with and in her life, and while some of the things she lists are perhaps unachievable, at least she has ambitions. Anders has precisely none, unless you count getting back with a woman who left him because she could not cope with his addiction and behaviour any longer; to stay with him would be the end of her.

It would be tempting to make the protagonist of a film such as this likeable and although Anders has some redeeming features he is a difficult person to like. This film is brilliant at building up our anxiety for him though. He does some pretty awful things at times but one at least (stealing money) is typical addict behaviour.

The journey we take with him does however have some fantastic and beautiful moments. Ironically we see them as beautiful but then we should ask ourselves, does Anders?

Three scenes in particular stick in my mind. Firstly, one at the open-air swimming pool. Secondly, where Anders and a young woman ride a bike with another couple on another bike in front and the only thing you hear and focus on is the occasional “puff” of the fire extinguisher the man in front is triggering. Finally, a scene very near the end of the film where Anders is playing the piano, beautifully, back in his parents’ house… such beauty and potential and sadness… as soon as he makes an error he stops.

When his friend earlier in the film says he does not want Anders to contemplate suicide and how will he and his parents feel if he does, Anders’ simple reply is that they will assume it is an overdose, it is what happens with addicts.

Strong and tight narrative, beautiful, realistic images and great use of sound and music along with fantastic acting mark out Oslo, 31st August as something special. The cinematography is stunning but not full of fancy “tricks” and makes it all feel very real and authentic. The editing is superb. The sound design is also excellent and one thing I would advise is to NOT turn the sound down if, for instance, music comes on very loudly, it’s that loud for a reason.

Oslo, August 31st takes a day on the life of Anders and makes it on to something very special. This film is not a bundle of laughs and the themes it delves into of love, loss, addiction (drug use and abuse are shown) and suicide (this is a trigger warning folks) are not easy or soothing.

I can highly recommend watching this film but I would strongly recommend that you watch Reprise first as that is where we first meet Anders.

Awards:

19 Wins & 20 Nominations

Wins include:
Amanda Awards (2012) Best Direction ~ Joachim Trier; Best Editing ~ Olivier Bugge Coutté
Festival del Cinema Europea (2012) Best European Film
International Cinephile Awards (2013) Best Adapted Screenplay
Istanbul International Film Festival (2012) International Competition ~ Joachim Trier
Kosmorama, Trondheim International Film Festival (2012) Best Male Actor in a Leading Role ~ Anders Danielsen Lie; Best Supporting Actor ~ Hans Olav Brenner; Best Sound Design ~ Gisle Tveito; Best Editing ~ Olivier Bugge Coutté; Best Cinematography ~ Jakob Ihre; Best Original Screenplay ~ Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier
Lisbon and Estoril Film Festival (2011) Special Mention ~ Joachim Truer
Ole Awards (2012) Best Foreign Film ~ Joachim Trier
Stockholm Film Festival (2011) Bronze Horse ~ Best Film, Best Cinematography
Transilvania International Film Festival (2012) Best Film

Trailer:

Link to a review of Reprise:

Reprise (2006) ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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