Oslo, August 31st (2011)

A haunting portrayal of a day in the life of a recovered drug addict grappling with his past, his choices, and his sense of belonging in a world that seems to have moved on without him.

8/9/20234 min read

Anders Danielsen Lie in 'Oslo August 31st'
Anders Danielsen Lie in 'Oslo August 31st'

Norwegian, 94 minutes

Director: Joachim Trier

Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner

Awards: Nominee, Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival, 2011; Winner, Best European Film, Festival del Cinema Europeo, 2012; Winner Best Film and Best Cinematography, Stockholm Film Festival, 2011; 4 Nominations and 2 Wins (Best Director & Best Editor) at Amanda Awards, Norway’s premier film industry awards;

Right in the beginning sequence, after fragmented shots of Oslo life through the eyes of a couple, we see a young man attempting suicide by wanting to drown himself in a lake. Unsuccessful at that, he returns back-to his rehab room. Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), apparently is a recovering drug addict who has stayed clear of any substance for more than ten months now but still is in pain and aimless about what to do about his life. In a group therapy session, just after his return, we discover that he has an important job interview lined up. So he gets a day off to go outside rehab facility.

Before going to the interview, for the job of editorial assistant, he meets his close friend Thomas (Hans Olav Brenner) who lives with his wife and two children. Both have a lengthy heart-to-heart discussion. Anders tell him about job interview which he is not enthusiastic about. Thomas thinks it is a great thing but Anders is of the opinion that he is too old to start afresh as an editorial assistant. Thomas confides in him about his marriage woes and discloses that he was afraid that he would any day hear about Anders’s death due to over-dose. And Anders in return, tells him about his intention to die, though not in clear words but Thomas gets the message and extracts a promise from him that he won’t attempt anything stupid. He also invites him to a party at night which their mutual old friends, Calle and Mirjam, have organized for her birthday.

Alders proceeds for the job interview and on his way, calls up Iselin his old girlfriend and leaves message on her voicemail. The job interview doesn’t go well as the editor asks him about what he did after 2005 and Anders tells him that he was drug addict. He takes back his application and returns back.

He is supposed to meet his sister Nina but Nina’s girlfriend arrives and tells him that she doesn’t want to see him but she is proud of him that he has come out of his addiction. It is strange, however, when we as audience learn that Nina had waited for him a day before but because Anders couldn’t get leave in the evening he could not come to meet her and a day later she doesn’t show up. Logically, it doesn’t add up because nothing much has changed in last 24 hours.

Anders arrives at the party hosted by Calle and Mirjam and meets his other old friends. Mirjam and Anders discuss personal issues of Mirjam and she reveals that she wants to have children. Anders again calls up Iselin but the call again goes to her voicemail. He leaves message about how they could live life together if she is interested. He leaves Mirjam’s party and buys a gram of dope from his old dealer. He then joins another party with his old friend and two new college going girls. They party till morning next day, August 31st. They go out and all the three jump in a nearby swimming pool except Anders. Anders leave them and returns to his old house which his parents are planning to sell. He calls Iselin and asks her to forget whatever he had said earlier and he is calling her for last time. Then he shoots himself with the one gram dope he had bought earlier and lies down on bed.

Anders Danielsen Lie's performance is the heart and soul of the film. His portrayal of Anders is both heartbreaking and captivating, conveying a sense of vulnerability and self-destructiveness that is hard to forget. I found Hans Olav Brenner, as Thomas, also brilliant. He portrays the close friend’s character with impeccable warmth, care and empathy.

But frankly, the film wanders as aimlessly as Anders himself. His friend Thomas says in the film that how fortunate he is that he has caring and comparatively wealthy parents and sister, and he can still live decent life and yet we see Anders not wanting to embrace good life - that too without any reason shown. Moreover, except Iselin he doesn’t seem to be fixated with anyone or anything despite the fact that he tells Thomas that he was not in love with Iselin. One can understand the predicament of a just recovered drug addict but then in the end elements in the script just doesn’t add up.

About the director, Joachim Trier

Born in March 1974 in Denmark, Joachim Trier, comes from a distinguished family of film enthusiasts. His father, Jacob Trier, was a sound technician and his grandfather, Erik Lochen, was the artistic director of ‘Norsk Film’, a Norwegian Film production company, from 1981 to 1983.

He studied film at European film college, Ebeltoft, Denmark and at the National Film and Television School in United Kingdom. His debut Film ‘Reprise’(2006), the first in his series of ‘Oslo Trilogy’, received Norway’s top film award (Amanda Award) at home and won many international film festival awards at Toronto, Istanbul, Milan, Karlovy Vary and at Rotterdam. His present film ‘Oslo, August 31st‘ was second film of 'Oslo trilogy' and was premiered in the ‘Un Certain regard’ category of Cannes Film Festival, 2011. The film went on to win lot of critics’ circle awards across the world. His third feature, an English language Film, ‘Louder than Bombs’ (2015) was included in competition section of Cannes Film festival, 2015. The third film of the trilogy is 'The worst Person In The World' (2021) for which lead actress Renate Reinsve won Best Actress Award at Cannes Film Festival, 2021.

He was also the Jury President of ‘Semaine de la critique’, called ‘Critics’ Week’ in English, a parallel section to the Cannes Film festival, 2018, organized by the ‘French Syndicate of Cinema Critics’ which promotes the new talent in cinema by showcasing first and second feature films by various directors across the world.