Oslo, August 31st – An Intra-personal Reflection

I watched Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st last night.  Anders Danielsen Lie portrays with quiet intensity a man who receives a day’s leave from an addiction recovery center to return to Oslo, where he has a job interview for an associate editor position at an up-and-coming culture magazine.  He spends his time in Oslo visiting old friends, eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations, and undergoing the temptations a recovering addict would inevitably encounter on the first day in the real world in ten months.

Watching Lie’s performance of his character (with whom he shares a first name), you can see how emotionally vapid and simultaneously overwhelmed Anders feels.  For those of us who have suffered crippling depression born of apathy and fear, Lie’s performance is a terrifying, yet comforting mirror.  How many times have you sat in a coffee shop–no, how many times have I sat in a coffee shop–and listened, without shame, to others’ conversations, imagined what their lives are like, or how happy or sad they are?  How many times have I gone from smiling one moment, to remembering exactly how unhappy I am, as if being happy for just one second was a necessary reminder that no, I am unhappy.

Lie conveys so much in a performance that is mostly wordless, and when Anders does speak, he rarely communicates his emotions in ways that are easy to understand.  Anders is one massive miscommunication, lost in his depression, apathy, and recovery.  Trier’s film is wrought with the apathy that its main character embodies, reveling in intimate, lingering shots that feel both close and withdrawn, as if we are to watch Oslo objectively, sans compassion, which makes it that much harder to watch Anders struggle in the tempestuous 24 hours he spends in “the real world”.