OSLO, AUGUST 31ST
Rating 3 1/2 (out of 5)
Starring: Anders Danielsen Lie
Directed by: Joachim Trier Running time: 95 minutes
Oslo, August 31st is a Norwegian art film that explores a meaningless existence through the eyes of Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), a recovering drug addict.
Even Oslo, a once happy city, when filtered through the eyes of Anders, is transformed into the universe described by Richard Dawkins, a place where death is the ultimate end to all things.
This film depicts a single solemn day in the life of Anders as he leaves drug rehab to go for a job interview. The audience feels he is not yet ready, for before leaving rehab, Anders attempts suicide.
He has tried living with an existential philosophy, yet in the end it leaves him feeling empty. He's tried drugs. He's tried being sober. He's tried love. However, in a world with nothing but blind pitiless indifference, why does it matter in the end?
Over the course of the day we see Anders and those around him try everything they can to be happy, but they cannot. One of the most powerful sequences of the film is when we see Anders people-watching in a coffee shop. A young ambitious woman is reading a list of her life's aspirations. Anders listens and knows that she probably won't accomplish all of these things - and even if she did, would it really matter?
All the people he meets along the way seem to be dealing with the same problem. An old friend and spouse spend hours playing the video game Battlefield, subconsciously trying to get a sense of accomplishment. But they cannot.
The film is dominated by artistry. It will prove to be too slow and opaque for some. But for those open to a film that is more interested in conveying feelings and pondering ideas, they will be greatly rewarded.
Anders Danielsen Lie gives a very strong performance, which is central to the film's success. Without his monotone speech or depressed expression the film would fail to capture the raw emotion that is essential to its theme.
Unlike many films about drugs, Oslo, August 31st is sympathetic with Anders' world view. It sees him and everyone around him as trapped in a world of no meaning and no joy. For him it would not matter if he stayed sober and completely rebuilt his life because in the end all of his efforts would amount to nothing.
Before losing all hope in our existence we must ask ourselves, is the world Anders inhabits our own? Or is it only his false perception?
Thankfully, I see another world. I believe our creator created our universe with purpose, design and good. If only Anders could perceive this world, maybe then he would finally see that staying sober can be purposeful.
. Joshua Cabrita is a Grade 11 student at Riverside Secondary. He is a founding member of the school's movie club, where students meet to view old classics and discuss their meaning and significance. One of his audacious dreams is to become a full-time professional film critic.