Cannes 2011 Review: OSLO, 31. AUGUST

Joshua Brunsting

by: Joshua Brunsting
May 24th, 2011

Rating: 4/5

Director: Joachim Trier
Writers: Joachim TrierEskil Vogt
Cast: Hans Olav BrennerPetter Width KristiansenKjellevik Ledang

With names like Almodovar, Malick, von Trier and Kaurismaki making their way to the red carpet of this year's Cannes Film Festival, it is one of the younger names that has really garnered quite a bit of moment coming out of the Croisette this year.

Joachim Trier, best known for his stunning debut REPRISE, is back with a haunting tale of youthful dispair entitled OSLO, 31. AUGUST.  And it is one hell of a sophomore effort.

A recovering addict, our lead is Anders, a troubled youth, looking to make right his past transgressions, and simply move forward in this world.  A relatively barebones narrative follows in this logline's wake, and while it may not be deep on narrative threads woven throughout it's run, it is a heavily layered look at youth, despair, and what happens when those things are brought together.

Anders Danielsen Lie plays the lead role here, and gives an absolutely breathtaking performance.  He douses the character of Anders with such a steep sense of truth that each body blow his character takes be it physically, emotionally, or psychologically has you on the ropes yourself.  Akin to something like Anne Hathaway's turn in the quasi-similar RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (take out the wedding and you have OSLO), Anders becomes one of the bright young actors to keep a truly keen eye on. The supporting cast here, including names like Ingrid Olava, Kjaersti Odden Skjeldal and Johanne Kjellevik Ledang all give equally fantastic performances, making this one of the more wonderful collection of actors to find their way to the Croisette this year.

However, the name with the greatest momentum from here moving forward is the film's director, Trier.

Crafting a drug addiction parable similar in style to a film like THE WRESTLER, Trier takes stylistic cues from filmmakers like Aronofsky, but fills the frame with such pure emotion, and stark intimacy, that it feels like something from the Maysles Brothers and other cinema verite staples.  Allowing each frame to breathe, particularly during moments of silence, OSLO is a neo-realist flick that allows each moment, important or mundane, to really sink in and paint a detailed picture of a man dealing with his addiction.  A film about as dark as a black hole, OSLO doesn’t allow much in the way of breathing room for its audience. However, the film tosses each viewer into this brutally blunt world that for the generation portrayed here, hasn’t been any more optimistic than Trier’s frame shows.  It’s a stunning look at generational despair, and one that comes full circle thanks to its wonderful directorial eye, from a director far beyond his years.

Very much inspired by the landscapes and atmosphere that encompasses his native Norway, Trier has painted a beautifully meditative character study here, one that, riding on the shoulders of its lead actor, is able to make its nearly 100 minute long runtime feel as though it’s half that, in the most brutal of ways possible.

Overall, OSLO is not your everyday cinematic material.  A haunting character study that goes exactly where you expect it to, despite hoping for something far less damaging, it also goes somewhere where frankly, it logically should.  A great look into angst, despair and pure sadness, the film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those willing to down it will be getting more than their full.  It’s simply one ofthis year’s must see features coming out of the Cannes Film Festival.

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