“I got some money today,” states lead character, thirty-four year old Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) talking to his friend. “My first thought was to use it for heroin.” He then adds, “It just instinctively popped into my head.”
The title, Oslo, August 31st, is the location and the date upon which most of this remarkable Norwegian film takes place. Anders is recovering from a drug addiction. As part of his recovery program he is given the day to leave for the city and attend a job interview. The interview itself doesn’t go as well as it should resulting with Anders unnecessarily storming out of the office and using the rest of the day to visit friends and others from his past.
The heart wrenching point to Anders is that, overall, he’s a likeable character. He’s clearly a man of intelligence with talent who, given the opportunity, could do well and bounce back into society once again, but you sense the self-destruct from the moment you first meet him. He appears unwilling to start from the beginning, something he needs do in order to kick-start his life, but there’s an obvious fear of re-entering the real world. At his interview, the interviewer appears interested in Anders and even compliments the young man on his writing abilities, yet when the potential boss points out that there is nothing on the resume after 2005 Anders suddenly becomes over sensitive and states in a confrontational manner, “Because I was a drug addict!” and storms out.
Dialog is sparse. Thoughts and dark feelings are expressed through glances and long pauses. Once the interview is out of the way Anders roams the city. There are moments where he does nothing other than sit in a café overhearing unconnected comments from those around him, something akin to the invisible spirits of Wings of Desire. These are snatches of dialog from those around Anders experiencing the journey of their own lives, unaware of the young man who at this point has already decided he no longer connects. He might as well be an invisible spirit for all the disconnect he feels from everything and everyone around him.
Oslo, August 31st is a work of sadness that would ordinarily be a tough journey to experience, yet director Joachim Trier keeps you focused on Anders every step of the way. You want the character to pull through, but the hope you feel for Anders is something he can’t feel for himself. In the end it’s obvious we’re witnessing the downward spiral of a tormented soul who has lost the will power to even try. Recommended.
MPAA Rating: Unrated Length: 91 minutes Overall rating: 7 (out of 10)