Oslo, August 31st | Movie review
Norwegian director Joachim Trier beats the sophomore slump.
One of the most striking things about Reprise, Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s achingly bittersweet first feature from 2006, is the way it seems to take place in several tenses at once. Faced with the crushing disappointments of early adulthood, the film’s postcollegiate protagonists always look backward or forward, to the dream of yesterday or the fiction of tomorrow.
In Trier’s sophomore picture, Oslo, August 31st, there’s only the present—a sobering here and now from which “recovering” junkie Anders sees just one route of escape. Gone are the flights of fancy and warp-speed nostalgia trips of the filmmaker’s debut. In their absence, Trier has constructed a day-in-the-life trudge, as well as a eulogy for summer and youth. His hero, granted leave from rehab to attend a job interview, is embodied by the pale and sunken-featured star of Reprise, Anders Danielsen Lie. Upon his lanky shoulders, this tough, wounding film lays its burden. It’s not easy to make resignation compelling, but Lie, who appears in almost every scene, keeps you totally entranced.
Drifting across his former stomping grounds, Anders encounters old friends, botches the interview—a scene rich with shifting emotions—and makes a couple of desperate phone calls to an ex-girlfriend working abroad. Will he backslide into a fix? Will he make good on an earlier suicide attempt? There’s some suspense to this crisis of control, but Trier, a poet of the everyday, is more interested in the minutiae of his character’s homecoming. Little passages get etched into your memory: the overlapping din of casual chatter inside a café; tangential oral histories of Oslo and its people; and the ecstasy of an up-all-night adventure, with strangers and acquaintances waiting together for the first glimmers of morning light. The present may be a prison for Anders, but lingering in the moment brings out the best in Trier.