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Nordic Film Festival: Oslo, August 31st
December 30, 2012
Foreign art cinema often challenges its audiences to view motion pictures from a new perspective, presenting a radical departure away from conventional archetypes of dominant Hollywood cinema. Directors have for years tried to break away from Hollywood’s rules that neatly suture movies together for mass consumption whilst blurring the lines of filmmaking. French critics such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut herald the first real rebellious movement away from Hollywood in the late 50’s, known today as the La Nouvelle Vague. A movement so bold it was to revolutionise cinematic grammar, whilst rejuvenating international art cinema. The rebellious attitude of filmmaking continued throughout Europe notably with Dogme 95 a Danish movement setup by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, which championed the ‘vows of chastity.’ This movement brought with it some challenging, evocative but intriguing cinema. The very rebellious nature of these movements have shaped the horizon for emerging filmmakers to seize an alternative cinematic school of thought which has led to some cinematic triumphs, whilst also pardoning many fragmented and otherwise useless pieces of cinema.
Oslo August 31st is a Norwegian film that utilises the art-house label however, Trier raises the bar several notch’s higher through his extensive knowledge of the alternative cinematic grammar; which he masterfully explores throughout his film. The film opens with a montage of memoirs painting a portrait of Norway through voiceovers as Trier takes the audience on a journey of self-discovery playing with the audience’s minds in a bid for them to seek answers, both about the film and about life’s directional alignments. The protagonist Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) is a 34 year old recovering drug addict whose extreme partying lifestyle has left him alienated and emotionally unstable. Approaching the end of his rehabilitation stint for his drug and alcohol abuse he is allowed to venture into the outside world for a job interview, aside this he aimlessly meets up with old friends and former lovers, looking into their lives he begins to question his own self-worth.
Trier truly captures the sombre moments of isolation perfectly from early on, notably when introducing Andres. Trier uses extreme close-ups and prolonged moments of tracking (a style made famous by Truffaut in The 400 Blows) which becomes harrowing and uncomfortable as one begins to question the victim’s circumstances that led him to the path of self-destruction. Trier seeks not only for empathy but to seek answers to one self’s existences and he illustrates this with meticulous care in another scene where Andres sits alone in a café. Andres listens in on other’s conversations, they talk of their aspirations and dreams, desires and ambitions, a stark contrast to the loneliness that Triers captures. Lie’s bleak and cold portrayal of his character is one which can only be marvelled at for his ability to show his inner anguish, pain and hurt is truly believable. Triers attempt at presenting Pierre Drieu La Rochelle’s 1931 novel Le Feu Follet, is noteworthy and he shall yield the critical rewards of great filmmaking. The film has great depth and challenges its audience to seek answers of self-existence but it’s the sentimental un-glamorised stance on drug abuse that really allows this film to connect on a new level with audiences.