“Oslo, August 31st” makes its Milwaukee premiere at UWM

Norwegian director Joachim Trier's film "Oslo, August 31st" makes its local premiere at the UWM Union Theatre this weekend.

By - Sep 14th, 2012 02:58 pm
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The UWM Union Theatre hosts the Milwaukee premiere of Norwegian director Joachim Trier‘s film Oslo, August 31st this weekend, and boy, is it ever a downer. If you’re in the mood for something light and fun, you might want to check out The Color Wheel instead (also screening at the Union), but if you are looking for something a little more dark and somber that forces you to contemplate the alienation of modern industrial existence, look no further.

The film follows Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), a recovering drug addict, as he leaves a treatment facility for the first time in ten months under the pretext of a job interview. Instead, Anders spends his time revisiting old friends and family in hopes of recovering some semblance of normalcy.

He doesn’t find it. What could be joyous reunions with warm hugs and fond nostalgia are instead stifled and bleak interactions; neither he nor his old friends can see past his drug use. Conversations begin cordially, but always turn to his troubled past and the inescapable guilt he carries. As the film progresses, one question presents itself: Is Anders attempting reconciliation, or simply saying goodbye forever?

These meetings soon develop into an examination of the corrosive nature of time. Time heals no wounds in Oslo. It merely serves to illustrate the impossible difference of the immutable past. Anders is plagued by his past, and it becomes increasingly clear that, unlike Oslo itself, under construction and renovation during the film, Anders will not be rehabilitated.

The film deals with a lot of heavy content, and most of it rests on Lie’s shoulders. He is the center of every scene and the focal point of nearly every shot, many of which are comprised entirely of his contemplative gazes. This may not sound particularly demanding, but this sort of cool detachment could easily become boring in less capable hands. Lie is able to communicate a complete sense of isolation through simple glances and facial expressions, almost never relying on dialogue for drama.

Despite its nearly overwhelming dreariness, the film is beautiful. Trier’s style is casual and muted, and his handheld camera acts simply as an observer of Anders’ day. The film meanders around Oslo, modestly capturing all of the natural beauty without any unnecessary flash. Paired with Lie’s raw performance, this hands-off delivery allows an intimate portrait of a lifestyle that most people will never experience themselves. Even if you’re not a recovering heroin addict, it becomes easy to empathize with Anders’ loneliness.

Oslo, August 31st is part of UWM Union Theatre’s World Cinema. The film screens at 7 p.m. Friday, 9 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. For more of ThirdCoast Digest‘s film coverage, visit our Film page

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies

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