Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner, Ingrid Olava and Tone B. Mostraum.
Oslo, August 31st is one of those brilliantly made movies that makes you think while watching it. The brilliant imagery, lyrical beauty and perfect performances makes up for a very wonderful experience even though it has a dark and grim story. It had its festivals run last year but was released this year in U.S., its one of the best movies i have seen this year. Oslo, August 31st tells the story of a recovering drug addict, Anders, who is in a rehab clinic. We follow his journey through the city of Oslo a day before 31st (which is significant and it makes up for the title of the movie) which is when he gets a leave to attend a job interview. The movie begins with shots of the city Oslo with voice overs of people and their memories attached to the pictures of various places of the city shown. Then we get to see Anders, who just had an intercourse with a woman. The fleeting thought that came into my mind was that this would be his girlfriend, who he made while his days here in the rehab. But i was wrong, Anders turns out to be completely different. He is a recovering drug addict, very talented writer but the addiction has left him completely broken and destroyed. We follow him out into the woods as he heads towards a pond, there he tries to kill himself by filling the pockets of his jacket with stones and trying to drown himself. The mash up of different places of the city with voice overs of people trying to share the lovely memories cutting directly to this extremely disturbing shot, that is when i realized this movie was going to be great. Anders can't do it, he tries to take his life but he just can't. He is hopeless, his life seems nothing to him and he feels like there is nothing left for him in his life. When Anders comes to the city for the interview, he decides to meet a friend of his, Thomas. That is his dear friend who knows everything about him, they are close which i can see by the way they talk to each other. He spends a bit time in his house with his wife and children and then they go for a walk in the garden.
Thomas talks to him about everything, his life, his plans and everything but Anders seems to have no straight answers or reactions. He looks lost, he seems completely broken. Later, his job interview goes very well until he is asked about what he did during those years that are left blank on his CV. Anders speaks about his addiction and the rehab and after an awkward pause when the reviewer seems to be okay with everything, Anders stops and abruptly leaves. He is ashamed for what he did and can't move on with his life. He is suppose to meet his sister but she sends her friend instead. One of the most pivotal scenes comes in the movie when he is sitting in a cafe, he looks around at people and hears what they are talking about. There is a girl talking about many positive if a little stupid things she wants to get done in her life. From writing a novel to owning DVDs of her favorite shows from doing this to doing that. He notices everyone and his expressions reveals everything about him. The way he reacts to this world where he feels alienated, the people who looks nowhere as broken or hopeless to him like he is, that is one hell of a essential scene. There is this sort of lyrical beauty througout the movie, Trier really approaches his journey for finding anything to hold on to one last time in an amazing poetic way. Anders meets his ex-girlfriend and many other people from his past, they talk about those days. The bitter old days about who did what to steal that girl he liked and who did what during that night. He tries to express himself, makes the people he love aware of what he is going through and how he feels. What he gets instead is lectures and small talk and no one listens or tries to understand what he feels. Anders sees his friends and people that he knew moved on with their lives with good jobs, married and children and he is overwhelmed by it, he has long lost the hope to do the same one day for himself.
Anders Danielsen Lie steals the show with his brilliant and effective performance. He knows what he is doing and is fully aware of the character he is playing. Lie in every scene seems familiar, authentic and engrossing in every possible way. The cinematography is pitch perfect, there are some pretty great shots in the movie. A scene which i recall after Anders spends that night partying going through pubs, clubs etc meets someone from his past and some girls. They go out, running and cycling through they city, jumping in the pools and having lots of fun. The way camera moves just adds a lot of depth and unbelievable beauty and tenderness to the scenes. The style that was approached is quite fascinating, from close up shots where we follow Anders through the city to the distant shots where he is shown having personal deep moments with himself, looks quite amazing. He is recognizable in those few scenes where he stands out from the rest of the crowd or the scenery as a complete different person. For such a minimal indie movie to be such masterful on technical level is brilliant and shows how much drawn and passionate the filmmaker is to the movie and how much he knows what he wants to show us. The movie also has a lovely score and sound design which works perfectly well with the tone of the movie.
I was fully drawn into this movie, it has this sheer force that sucks you down with it but before that it shows you why. It is not about why or how the character wants to die but it shows us how he realizes that there isn't a single reason for him to live. This movie has a very sad, disturbing, deeply melancholic tone but at the same time it is beautiful and just rewarding. The ending will leave you haunted, puzzled and re-energized at the same time. Tender and effective character study which is an excellent example of perfect film making, acting and technical excellence. This movie will stay with you for weeks and the effect of the experience will be everlasting.