Oslo, August 31st
Directed by Joachim Trier
At this point in the year, though it may not be my "favorite", Oslo, August 31st still stands as the most powerful, incredible piece of film-making I have seen in 2012.
A film almost solely focused on moral complexities and emotional depth, this is one of the most morbidly fascinating movies I've seen since Leaving Las Vegas. The way the screenplay cuts to the very core of its characters (most notably the lead, played by the incredibly nuanced Anders Danielsen Lie) leaves you feeling slightly ravaged. Not only are the events and quiet interactions of this film emotional and thought-provoking, but play out in very believable, genuine ways.
As a character, Anders is one of the most complex and heart-breaking I have seen in some time. This is a man who, through some strange revelatory enlightenment, has found his place in the world and finally understands his worth. Though this realization largely takes place before the events of the film, as the story progresses, we gradually see layer upon layer of his new-found understanding revealed. He knows better than to blame anyone else for his standing in life, and through his interactions with those closest to him over the course of the film, we truly begin to understand why he is the way he is. The slow, but well-paced unfolding of the layers of this character is truly a marvel, and one that cannot be overstated.
This is a film of very few technical elements, mostly ranging from the acting to the writing, but they are both executed flawlessly. Every performance, every interaction is completely crucial. No ham-handed exposition dialogue, convoluted plot-points, or exaggerated performances. This is a quietly moving film, with ponderous themes and subdued acting. The result is profoundly moving, albeit slightly distressing. Movies like this only serve as proof that sometimes less is more. Great writing and acting can result in something far more than any $100 million budget movie can offer. Whether or not you choose to immerse yourself into the story is your own decision. This is definitely not the kind of film I can see myself recommending to most people, but to those willing to experience something truly amazing, this may be what you're looking for.
Dark, thoughtful, and powerful, this is not the kind of movie I can see myself watching many times. Upon first viewing, I was unsure as to the emotional resonance this film would have with me, but now I can see that the effects will be difficult for me to shake. How a film can be this mesmerizing, yet completely down-to-earth, is simply astonishing to me. By halfway through, I could see this had the potential to be a great film -- and by the ending, I knew it was.