Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), a former writer, is 34 years and lives in a rehabilitation home in the countryside. He himself is “clean”, but seems to no longer enjoy life. Now, he’s allowed to go to Oslo to attend a job interview and spend the day in the city. It will be an opportunity to meet former friends and family, maybe for the last time in his life.
‘Oslo, August 31st’ is based on the novel ‘The Fire Within’, by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, which had already been adapted by Louis Malle in 1963. Director Joachim Trier moves the action from Paris to the Norwegian capital, and turns the alcoholism of the character in Louis Malle’s film into hard drugs addiction.
There is a modernization of themes and circumstances. Trier’s “hero” represents a generation of spoiled kids now in their mid 30s, who struggle through life without ever having really grown up. Anders doesn’t fit into society, but his friends and family seem to lead an equally frustrated life. In a sense, Anders is the smart one.
The second film by Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier has many valuable qualities; most remarkably, a beautiful, sunny Oslo that contrasts the gloomy mood of the main character, and the magnetic presence of the actor Danielsen Lie, who shows real pain and abandon in a subtle way. On the other hand, many of the dialogues and performances seem unlikely and unconvincing, as if most of the actors were unsuccessfully improvising.
There are powerful moments in between dull situations and erratic moves. Actually, the movie makes a wonderful trailer but an irregular, yet still interesting, long feature.