Oslo, August 31
by Joachim Trier
Review by A.O. SCOTT, The New York Times
Joachim Triers Oslo, August 31, is a perfectly linear story that bristles with suspense and ambiguity. The title and the structure make literal the recovery movement mantra one day at a time, and also show just how long and how full of danger a single 24-hour span can be. Stories of addiction frequently pass through a metaphorical crossroads redemption down one path, catastrophe down the other but Anders, Mr. Triers protagonist, faces such a choice at every waking moment. You are never sure what he will do next, and it is clear that he is not, either. Nor does he necessarily know why he makes the choices he does, or what they mean.
Anders Danielsen Lie in Oslo, August 31st, loosely based on Le Feu Follet, a 1931 novel by the French writer Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (adapted for ﬁlm by Louis Malle in 1963), is neither sensationalistic nor punishingly bleak. There is sometimes a generic quality to movies about addiction, perhaps because of the leveling power of the disease, which can afﬂict anyone, regardless of background. Anders is smart a once-promising intellectual who has published articles in highbrow journals and was raised, it seems, by kind and loving parents. He has no good explanation for the pain he has inﬂicted on himself and others, which may make it harder.
But Mr. Trier and Mr. Lie a quiet, recessive but nonetheless magnetically self-assured screen presence emphasize Anderss individuality above all. Oslo, August 31st has the satisfying gravity of speciﬁc experience, and also, true to its title, a prickly sense of place. Oslo is Anderss home, the scene of his happiest and most dreadful experiences, and the ﬁlm, chilly as it is, is warmed by a love for the city that the ﬁlmmaker and the character clearly share.
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