Capturing a generation with `all possibilities but no orientation`

by HRM on October 19, 2011

Interview with Joachim Trier, by Franziska Knupper

Just one week ago I returned to my hometown, a place in Western Germany, a place with family, memories, past. A place where you immediately become the former person you have been when you left, no matter how much time you spent somewhere else. And that was when the name Joachim Trier popped up more frequently in my mind than ever before.

The second long feature film of the Norwegian director “Oslo, August 31st” has been in movie theaters here for a couple of weeks. And again, Trier (yes, he is a cousin of the Danish Lars von Trier) tackles fundamental subjects of human identity such as the connection or the identification with a place, with a region or the fact that you always take yourself with you, wherever you go.

Oslo“I myself grew up in Oslo and my last two films take place here,” Trier says. “The beauty of that place is not very obvious, you have to look for it,” he adds while taking a sip of his coffee. We sit outside a café in Norway’s capital, it is already freezing cold; it is just the middle of October. “This is the place where I lived when I was young, where I have my roots and the most preconceptions, either good or bad. I think it is very destructive to try to erase your memory and sooner or later you have to accept that.”

In his latest movie, the main character also has this experience when he entering his old life after coming out of rehabilitation: “Well actually it is not about rehab or addiction. It is about what follows afterwards and about re-entering society,” Trier corrects me.

The protagonist thus faces all those different expectations and pressures of human community, emerging from all sides. Such as for example the obligation to be at a certain point at a certain age in life and not regretting what you have done before or what you might have missed out on. “Contrary to my first movie [Reprise] this one also deals a lot with age, with the feeling of inferiority to the others who seem to have succeeded more.”

There is a point in the movie when one of the characters says to the protagonist “You have great friends, you have family, get a grip!” It is a point when suddenly the past is stronger than the present, when regrets paralyze you and make you doubt yourself in your current situation. “He has all options lying in front of him, he could lead what we call a “proper life” but he somehow lost his way,” Trier sums it up, referring to our generation with all possibilities but no orientation.


For the second time Trier works with the actor Anders Danielsen Lie, for the second time these two approach the human mind and human nature. “Working with Anders is very fulfilling in sense that he inspires me. After doing Reprise I knew I wanted to do another movie with him.”

But even though the team and the subject might be similar in these two movies, the style is not at all: “I wanted to create a very linear story line this time. All events are in chronological order. In my last movie it was quite the opposite. There I used voice-over, flashbacks, change of place and time, a mixture of reality and the thoughts.“

Now we are following the protagonist just for one day, through the city of Oslo, Trier’s hometown. We mingle at parties, we sit lonesome on a bench, we jump into a river. We experience it all at the same time – melancholy, longing and zest for life.

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