Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.
The opening and closing minutes of Oslo, August 31rst are peerless filmmaking, a simultaneously nostalgic and disturbing slideshow of images from the titular city, which appears as some kind of larger supernatural entity with a will of its own. The film that they bracket is pretty decent too. It's a quiet slice of cinema verite about Anders, a recovering drug addict.
This isn't your standard AA-approved narrative of redemption, and that's what makes it good. Anders discovers that the world outside is frosty, ambivalent towards him, and most of all banal and meaningless. Of course, the difficulty is portraying banality without being banal yourself, and Trier doesn't entirely succeed here. But it does provide, on top of the more philosophical statement, a great representation of the difficulty of getting back into society after leaving it. Oslo, August 31rst is smart enough to see the social barriers that make the standard addiction narrative so deceitful.
Other than the immediately striking opening, there's nothing overtly impressive about this film. It has its flaws, such as the ending, which seems contrived compared to everything that's come before. But it's a quietly solid picture that certainly deserves a little of your time.
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