Joachim Trier on his new film Oslo, August 31st
From the new issue of Clash.
Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s debut film Reprise was one of the most inventive and stylish debuts of recent years, yet outside from a successful domestic release, cult level interest in America and a plethora of festival awards, it didn’t earn its creator the attention he deserved.
A former Norwegian skateboarding champion supposedly distantly related to Lars von Trier, Joachim’s second film Oslo, August 31st examines Anders, a recovering drug addict nearing the end of his treatment who heads into the capital for a job interview. Although his addiction seems to be under control, his inner demons can’t reconcile the ambition he once had with the reality of his current situation.
“I’ve known addicts and have had friends who have had problems, and I hate it when I see the stereotypical drug addicts that are represented in a lot of social realist films where they’re always sociological victims,” says Trier, emphasising his desire to challenge such expectations. “It’s more of a story about loneliness and trying to find one’s way in a life that has lost direction.”
Like Reprise’s study of two ambitious novelists, Oslo, August 31st focuses on middle-class characters.
“There’s a sense of shame about telling stories about middle-class problems, as if those problems weren’t worthy of a film. I disagree,” he states, equally crediting his co-writer Eskil Vogt. “These people often have the ability for self-reflection and their language can really express who are they and what their problems are. Yet people very often fail to live up to those standards they set for themselves. There’s something touching and sad sometimes about the gap between the great expectations and the lives that we actually have to accept.”
Cerebrally engaging, the film blends philosophical musings, specialised sprinklings of hipster-friendly humour (Anders complains about intellectual magazine articles deconstructing HBO TV series) and Nordic miserablism. The result is another very impressive work by one of the greatest undiscovered directors around.
Yet for all his ability, will that discovery ever happen? Trier mentions that he was deluged with American scripts and projects after the release of Reprise but found very few suitable ideas, so promptly created his own English-language script which he hopes will shoot next year. Referencing both The Smiths’ compilation album and its own source, an Elizabeth Smart poem, Louder Than Bombs will show how events differ from the perspective of four family members. Trier’s time will surely come.