Oslo August 31: authentic, but why?

The Norwegian drug addict Anders has been clean and sober after ten months in rehab, and has earned a day pass for a job interview in Oslo.  In rehab, he has had plenty of opportunity to take stock of himself and the impact that his drug habit has wreaked upon his disappointing career and upon his family and friends.  Anders concludes that the best response is to take his own life.  First, he takes advantage of his day pass to seek out his best friend and his own family.

Oslo August 31 is well-crafted and utterly authentic.  But, why was this movie made?  What is its contribution to art or entertainment or our knowledge or our experience?  Where is the payoff for the audience that makes the grim inevitability worth ten bucks and 95 minutes?

There’s one particularly spell-binding scene with superb sound design.  As Anders is waiting for someone in a cafe, he eavesdrops on the other patrons.  As he glances from table to table, we hear the conversation of each set of diners.  It’s very cool.

Unusual for a film about drug addiction, Oslo August 31 depicts only one instance of hard drug use – and that injection is not to get high.

The Danish director Joachim Trier previously made Reprise, a wonderful film about sanity and the creative process in which two young novelists send in their manuscripts at the beginning of the film, just before one suffers a psychotic breakdown.   Reprise was #4 on my list of Best Movies of 2008.

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