Oslo, August 31
“I always thought that happy people must be morons,” observes Anders, a recovering drug addict on day leave from rehab, in this nuanced character study by the maker of Reprise (SFIFF 2077). Abiding by his truism, Anders is smart and self-aware but in despair. A self-professed “spoiled brat who fucked up,” he is now in his mid-thirties and doing his best to stay clean but also alienated from his more settled peers and worrisomely fixated on shuffling off this mortal coil. His long day's journey into the picturesque Norwegian capital's night is thus steeped in suspense. Opening with a montage of home movies and snippets of city life over which unseen voices reminisce about lost childhood, writer/director Joachim Trier guides actors and viewers alike through a series of finely rendered set pieces: Anders and an old pal sizing up one another's achievements and foibles; a brilliantly designed sequence in which Anders eavesdrops on the revealing conversations of strangers in an airy café. Loosely based on Pierre Drieu La Rochelle's 1931 novel, Le feu follet, previously adapted by Louis Malle in 1963 as The Fire Within, Trier's portrait of addiction is both intoxicating and sobering.