"Loneliness in the crowd"
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
28/08/2011 - "As a cineaste, I am proud to present a film at the Cannes festival, where my grandfather Erik Løchen took part with The Chasers in 1959," said Norwegian director Joachim Trier, when his Oslo, August 31st [trailer, film focus], had its world premiere in Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. His second feature also won the Norwegian Critics’ Prize, after it had been nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize – Scandinavia’s highest honour - and was shortlisted for Norway’s Oscars submission.
Trier’s first feature, Reprise [trailer, film focus] (2006), won three Amandas – Norway’s national film prize – for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Script. It was Norway’s candidate for an Academy Award and collected a dozen trophies on the international festival circuit, including top prizes at Karlovy Vary, Toronto, Istanbul, Lecce and Rouen.
Based on French author Pierre Drieu la Rochelle’s novel, The Fire Within, which Louis Malle filmed in 1963, Oslo, August 31st follows ”one man, one city, 24 hours”.
Cineuropa: Was Oslo, August 31st a difficult film to make, after your success with Reprise?
Joachim Trier: Having considered numerous projects, Eskil [Vogt] and I sat down and wrote an American film, Louder than Bombs. Since the production was delayed, we decided to make a quick Nowegian movie. After two screenplays we were beginning to rely on our intuition and instincts – Reprise took us four years, Oslo four months. We chose the cast and locations while writing. Film is a group project; when it says ‘A film by Joachim Trier’ on the screen, it is an inside agreement that it is the name of my band, with Vogt, the photographer Jacob Ihre, the editor Olivier Bugge Coutté – we have been together for years.
What did a French 1931 novel have to do with contemporary Oslo?
It has a very simple, yet extremely complex story about a clever, apparently very popular man, full of resources, who has a problem of dependence which leads him to ask certain existential questions, which was perfect to use against a backdrop we know so well. Probably because it was our first adaptation, we were able to closely explore a reality which we are very familiar with.
We thought Oslo should be a document of a day in a city, which may look totally different if you watch it again in ten years time. That is why it starts with a montage of both public and personal memories.
Formerly addicted to drugs, our main character Anders is just out of rehab, which has been described as a very open and naked situation – you really do not know what you have, and what you want. He becomes the catalyst of the people around him – a girl in her 30s who wants a child; the academic with children wondering whether this was the life he wanted; the carefree who go on partying, with a good conscience.
Were the ‘24 hours’ difficult to shoot?
Although the film focuses on Anders, we wanted to give it a larger perspective than just through one character – it is also about the hundreds of fates crossing his path, although we were not trying to make another Magnolia. We shot Oslo on a 35-day schedule.
It is a very clean depiction, but still it has a sort of chorus, in the shape of its environment. Oslo is about loneliness in the crowd; I could not make a film about a man who lives all alone on the top of a fjell – it is not the sort of loneliness that interests me, I am an urban person.
I get increasingly process-oriented when I work, so I rarely have an initial idea of the final result. I think a lot of things can be improved if you are fully aware of the theme you are examining.
What does slate funding for your next two-three projects mean to your work?
I am really grateful for the guarantee from the Norwegian Film Institute – it is a privilege to know that for some time there will always be another film with Motlys, and that you have the possibility of setting a certain rhythm between your work as a director.
Hopefully I will be able to film Louder than Bombs next year – it is a Norwegian-American family drama, which will shoot in the US, in collaboration with an American independent company. At the same time we are writing on a new Norwegian film.
Did you learn anything about filming from your grandfather?
No, he died when I was nine. Still, he taught me ski jumping.