In his first film, Reprise, Norwegian director Joachim Trier fashioned an imaginative drama about the delights and challenges of a writing career. Through the clever use of voiceovers and flashbacks, he focused on two friends who take different paths in their creative expression. In this film, the lead character is a 34-year-old recovering drug addict from a very rich family. In the beginning of Oslo, August 31st, this depressed young man tries to drown himself but fails.
Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) has been off drugs for nearly a year and is ready to leave the drug rehabilitation center. He heads into the city of Oslo where he is applying for a job as a writer for a cultural magazine. During the interview we see how smart and knowledgeable he is about the trends in publishing. We also see that he has very little self-confidence and is now unwilling to take on the burdens of the creative life as he had done in the past.
In a visit with Thomas (Hans Olav Brenner), he admits that he is at the end of his rope. His buddy tries unsuccessfully to pull him out of his funk. Instead Thomas shares his own unhappiness in marriage. All this does little to lift Anders' spirits. He calls his former lover who now resides in New York but is unable to connect with her. He looks forward to a meeting with his sister, but she fails to show up and sends her girlfriend Tove (Tone B. Mostraum) instead. It seems that reaching out to others only deepens Anders' hopelessness and self-destructive feelings.
In the press notes, director Joachim Trier states: "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 a dark theater, but with other people."
Trier and Vogt have created a searing portrait of loneliness through the emptiness and isolation of Anders. He seeks to break out of this prison but is overwhelmed by what he experiences as one loss after another. The film makes it clear that chronic loneliness is a serious, life-threatening condition.
Special features on the DVD include widescreen audio: subtitles – English.