Monday, 11 June 2012

Oslo, August 31st - Woody Allen on speed

Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31st is like a Woody Allen film on speed. 

Trier presents a sentimental portrait of Oslo and at the same time he builds an emotional story-line about a man who travels back to that city to confront his past. The story of Oslo... in a way resembles Allen's Manhattan, as the city of Oslo becomes a character of its own in Trier's film, just like the island of Manhattan did in Woody Allen's picture. But there is more to it. The city itself would not mean much without Trier's on-screen ego - Anders, who carries an enormous baggage of moral anxieties connected to the city and the people who live in it.

The opening sequence where Anders is trying to commit suicide in the lake sets the tone for the entire film. Every step of his journey to reconnect with his past will bring him down more and more to the bottom, just like the stones he puts into his pockets when entering the lake try to pull him under. Anders is a recovering drug addict whose rehab facility allowed him to travel to the city for the first time in months in order to undergo a job interview which might help him turn his life around. He stops by his friends' house and talks about the past and presence, and the things that may still come. Later that day he walks around the city, observes the people passing by, thinking about their lives and their disappointments. He confronts old habits and relationships past, but by doing so he exposes himself to unwanted vulnerabilities that once pushed him onto a path of lies and deception. 

The film is perfectly paced and done with such emotional maturity that Anders' journey inwards becomes our own self-examination. The director masterfully transforms his main character from a helpless being, to a thoughtful intellectual who then ends as a thief and a junkie. The mood changes as morning turns into afternoon; people start rushing home as Anders wanders around the city of Oslo and thinks about what brought him to the state he is in on that late summer day of August 30th. 

The word "poetic" wouldn't give this film justice. Oslo, August 31st is so much more than the beautiful lyricism of image combined with a captivating story. Like Woody Allen's Manhattan, this film captures the time it was made in and turns the voice of our generation into something timeless.

Oslo, August 31st will be released on DVD on June 13th. 

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