Ebertfest 2013: Day Three

Oslo, August 31It’s late, I’m tired and tomorrow is going to be a long day but I needed to take the time to write about the amazing films we say today at the 15th annual Ebertfest.

Oslo, August 31 is a film I had already seen and already written about, so I won’t dote much more on it. I will say that while I was left gutted the first time I watched it and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to another viewing, Oslo, August 31 was still deeply sad but strangely provoking. We were joined by writer/director Joachim Trier and he was an absolute delight to listen to. Clearly very intelligent and thoughtful. Very interested in seeing more work from him, hopefully soon, and be sure to watch the entire interview in the archive link at the bottom of this post.



The Ballad of NarayamaNext, The Ballad of Narayama, a film that has been on my radar since being released by the Criterion Collection (if you don’t know, I’m addicted to buying Criterions). It was also the last entry in Ebert’s Great Movies feature. He made a last minute decision to include this feature and after viewing it, there seems to be a very profound reason for this that I won’t spoil, but I will say it has to do with his age at his passing. Briefly, The Ballad of Narayama is a folk tale of sorts about a struggling village that sends their elders up the mountain to starve while allowing the younger generations to prosper. It sounds morbid, and it is, but this is not an easy decision for all parties involved. The film is decidely Japanese, but not in a way I had ever really seen before. It has a very theatrical stage presence but in possibly the most clever way committed to film. I highly recommend reading Ebert’s Great Movies article on The Ballad of Narayama since it will do the  film much more justice than I. David Bordwell joined us afterwards to speak on the film and offered some of his amazing analysis, which can be seen in the archive link at the bottom of this page.

JuliaClosing off day three was a film I had never heard of, and I presume most (perhaps all) of you have not either, Julia. Starring the illustrious Tilda Swinton, who plays the eponymous protagonist. Though to call her a protagonist is hard since she is a scheming alcoholic that kidnaps a child for ransom and ends up getting in deeper at every turn. It’s almost so complex it seems like a Coen brothers film at times, but the intensity of both Tilda and the other actors in Julia is nothing short of incredible. I strongly urge you to seek this one out, it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve seen. We were also blessed to have Tilda Swinton join us and speak of the film. Admittedly, my exposure to Swinton’s films is spotty but I’ve always been drawn to her work. I can honestly say that her performance here impressed the hell out of me possibly more than anything else I’ve seen from her. Afterwards, we tried staying behind to get a chance for a picture with lovely Tilda, but were unable. Pretty much a huge bummer, but here’s hoping the opportunity arises again. Be sure to watch Tilda’s interview from the archive link below.

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Oslo, August 31 (10/13/12)

Oslo, August 31Movie Two Hundred Thirty

In Oslo, August 31, Anders is a recovering drug addict that takes leave from a treatment facility and heads home where his recovery is tested.

Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) has been living in a treatment facility for drug addiction rehabilitation. On August 31st, he is given day leave for a job interview. Before the interview, he stops by his old friend, Thomas’ (Hans Olav Brenner) house. He also meets with his sister’s girlfriend, Rebecca (Ingrid Olava) and learns that his sister is frightened of him and blames him for their parents sale of their house. During the job interview, Anders lashes out when pressed about his past and storms out. He wanders around Oslo and eventually runs into old acquaintances and old habits.

Oslo, August 31 is a striking film on several levels but perhaps the most striking to me is that it so closely resembles a documentary at times. Visually, Oslo, August 31 is stunning and the film gives an incredibly intimate look into the life of Anders, but we still don’t know much about him outside of his drug addiction. As the film progresses, we learn bits and pieces about his past through conversations with people he grew up with and we learn about his personality in the way that he carries himself. We also learn about his struggle with drugs and alcohol and see that his self-image is shredded so far gone that his addiction has replaced most of what makes Anders himself. We don’t know Anders outside what happens on that day and yet we learn so much.

Throughout Oslo, August 31, I was wondering where exactly the film was headed and why and when the credits began to roll I immediately wanted to start the film over and fill in the pieces and small nuances I may have missed. I refrained from doing this, largely due to the time that would eat up, but also because I felt it would have destroyed some of the magic behind a film where nothing really happens in terms of plot, but there is still so much going on, whether it be unspoken or assumed.

While it’s not a film I would outright recommend to everyone, Oslo, August 31 was very profound to me. I really adore a well crafted, character-driven film and Oslo, August 31 is a film that seemingly does everything right. Much like Umberto D., I never thought the camera was trying to gain sympathy in a manipulative fashion, which really pushes the intensity of the actors through. I wish more films were made these days that felt they could focus on just a character and still be captivating. Many indie movies try this but fail to be very interesting other than a quirk of the character or rely too much on humor. Oslo, August 31 is a very touching, human story of a young man and doesn’t try to be anything else.

I give it 4 swimming in the Frognerbadet out of 5.

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