Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Film Review: "Oslo, August 31st" (***)

I made a film this past semester, and it was "Oslo, August 31st".

To clarify, I am not Joachim Trier, nor am I saying that he has plagiarized an idea that came from me. How could he, after all, since the film played Un Certain Regard last year, as well as won Best Film and Cinematography prizes at the Stockholm Film Festival that same year. If anything, I plagiarized an idea off of Trier's film, however quite inadvertently so. I am certainly not saying that the fact that I made a film similar in meaning has diminished "Oslo, August 31st" at all in my eyes. I barely made the film I made at all, barely getting it done in a month's time. It was an 5-minute long afterthought, and even at its end felt incomplete.

So I owe a great debt to Trier, not only for giving the story I meant to tell a proper representation, but raising the bar for me to tackle once more in post-production. It also gives me a particular challenge in avoiding too close relation to the film itself, whose form actually proves quite stimulating. Opening to a fantastically constructed travelogue including memories of Oslo, as well as the people there, we don't truly get an impression of who or what this film is going to focus in on. We're not at all certain if the people or experiences of that opening will bare greater significance on the story later on, and indeed they don't.

The first scene of the film displaces us to follow Anders, a man of desperately suicidal tendencies after long bouts with drug addiction, for which he has been recovering. But recovery isn't exactly the salvation he was looking for, and he actually finds the world to be a great deal more bitter due to his past actions. The day shows him wandering about Oslo, a city which he has apparently grown rather tired of, or simply cannot bear any longer. There are stops along the way with people from his past, or at least attempts at such, but he doesn't ultimately represent a change on the way. He is somebody worth a conversation, but not worth a second thought.

As a matter of fact, that seems to be the major question that the film brought up throughout. Why are we even following Anders? He's desperately trying to be unsentimental about his situation, and yet the people around only afford to make things further dramatized. For quite the long sections of the film, his gaze drifts apart to other people, some more interesting or else just mundane in comparison to him. The reason his story seems so superfluous is that even he doesn't care about it any more. He's looking for some kind of outlet, be it through people, or else even classical music. It is a ninety minute case study of somebody who doesn't factor much anymore, even less in the scheme of a single day.

To that effect, Joachim Trier has done a great deal to make the moodiness of the piece reach the proper pitch. Paired up with Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive", Cannes 2011 represented a rather sizable push for Desire's "Under Your Spell" towards the masses. It is just one of many mood tuning songs of the film, which have a tendency of overwhelming their place with the physicality of the scene, instead taking up Ander's headspace, before crashing unceremoniously back to reality. Overall, "Oslo, August 31st" represents a paradox, showing a film about somebody who has no place in the world, but placing importance towards him by the simple act of showing. He's not the only one like him, so it's not too surprising that I found the same idea as Trier did on my own.

FOR ALL YOU SIMPLE-STATEMENT NUTS OUT THERE: It's in Norwegian, and there's sweet music!

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