The one-two punch of Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier’s “Reprise” and “Oslo, August 31st” makes him one of Scandinavia’s finest directorial exports, joining the likes of Denmark’s Lars von Trier (a distant relative) and Susanne Bier. “Oslo” is bold and breathtaking, with leading-man Anders Danielson Lie (who also starred in “Reprise”) delivering an absorbing portrait of a recovering drug addict.
Trier introduces an exclusive clip below and talks about “Oslo,” as well as details about his upcoming English-language debut and his resemblance to Michael Fassbender. “Oslo” opens May 25 at NYC’s IFC Center, with a national release to follow. The film debuted last year at Cannes in Un Certain Regard and went on to impress across the fest circuit, including Sundance and Toronto.
What was your inspiration for the film?
Joachim Trier: My co-writer Eskil Vogt and I wanted to explore how to create a story that focuses on the emotional, and almost physical, experience of an existential crisis. “I’m lost. How do I move forward?” So “Oslo, August 31st” is about the state of being lost and that particular loneliness that accompanies it. Cinema is a wonderful art form for talking about loneliness. We can experience films together with other people. It can be a collective experience of loneliness. We’re alone in the dark of the theater, but with other people.
This isn’t exactly a happy film, but the tonal shifts within it provide a really beautiful range of emotions for the audience. How did you prepare your star, Anders Danielsen Lie, so that he’d be able to lead us through this day-in-the-life of his character?
JT: The film was written with Anders in mind as the lead. Before we started writing, I offered it to him and fortunately for me he said yes. Anders is not a classically trained actor. He was actually in medical school when we cast him in “Reprise.” He is now a doctor. In addition to being a very intelligent person, he’s also very emotional. In “Oslo,” I wanted to go deeper with him. I knew he would go the extra mile with this part. He changed his physique, gained weight. He thoroughly researched drug addicts so that the detailing would be realistic. It was a very tough time for him. For most of the shoot, he stayed in his trailer, kept to himself.
Can you talk about working with your director of photography, Jakob Ihre, who shot both your films?
JT: Jakob and I meet at The National Film & TV School in London. We have done so much work together that we have become good friends. I admire his understanding of light, and his unique way of doing hand held camera work. We usually spend a lot of time together in the locations before we shoot to see how different natural light situations change the possibilities of a space.
What can we expect from your English-language debut, “Louder Than Bombs”?
JT: It is also written by Eskil Vogt and myself, so I guess you could say it’s a natural next step to try to tell a story somewhere other than Oslo this time. The story revolves around a family north of New York and I think we have found a new way of talking about parent-child relationships.
What’s are we seeing in this clip?
JT: Oslo is a city with a hidden beauty that I wanted to explore and find out if it was possible to capture the specific feeling of bicycling home from a party early in the morning just as the sun is coming up.
Bonus: What’s it like being Michael Fassbender’s doppelgänger?
JT: Ha Ha. Do you think so? Maybe that’s why I have started getting intense stares from strange women in the New York Subway.