An online film journal for Indian Cinema
Oslo, 31 August is an exceptional film by emerging Norwegian director Joachim Trier. It is a character study of a recovering drug addict Anders who reflects on his life so far by visiting some of the friends he has known over the years. Anders also has a job interview which ends in self hate, paranoia and guilt. This seems to be the tipping point and leads to a transient mini odyssey through the streets of Oslo. Anders lack of direction as he navigates his way through his life offers what is an understated commentary on a lost youth generation who seem to be well educated, middle class but symptomatically disillusioned. On his odyssey, Anders pauses to take a breather in a coffee shop. In what is one of the best sequences, Trier turns Anders into a human surveillance machine with conversations around him becoming magnified to reveal a familiar humdrum and prosaic banter that reinforces his discontent. Before his job interview, Anders visits one of his closest friends who we discover has settled down into a conformist ‘normal’ life as a father. Their conversations trigger painful memories for Anders who realises his drug addiction has led him to wasting the best years of his life. The boring normality of his friend’s new life also reminds Anders of the contempt he harbours for mainstream Norwegian society is actually justified. Such cynicism of human behaviour is later reinforced when Anders goes to a dinner party hosted by an ex girlfriend and yet again witnesses the grotesque and superficial niceties of the middle class. Additionally, he seems lost in the urban milieu which he inhabits but at the same time revels in his status as a rebel by exploiting his edginess. This is a film about faith and death; two of the most significant themes in the work of Ingmar Bergman whose influence can be detected throughout the narrative. This is a complex and intelligent work; one of the films of the year.