American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Oslo, August 31st" is about a day, a city and a 34-year-old man named Anders, who is on release from a drug rehab center so he can go to a job interview. The film opens with his memories of growing up in Oslo, described in snatches of dialogue and shown in glimpses of film. Here he was happy. Almost every street and turning is familiar.
Are we seeing a dream as it unwinds? Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) awakens in a hotel room next to a woman we never meet, walks nearby to a wooded stream, fills his pockets with rocks and walks into the water. After an uneasy time, he pops up sputtering and climbs back on the shore. He changes clothes and goes for his interview at an avant-garde magazine and makes a good start. He has impressive writing credits.
Asked for his critique of the magazine, he is pithy and sounds on the money. The editor is friendly and open. Then he questions a gap of some years in Anders' resume, and Anders accounts for it: drug addiction. Cocaine, heroin, whatever. He stands up and walks out of the room.
This is a turning point. Anders cannot be the first addict the editor has ever met or perhaps even hired. It is Anders himself who terminates the meeting, in anger or despair. He walks through the lonely summer streets, makes calls to a former girlfriend who doesn't pick up, meets an old friend named Thomas (Hans Olav Brenner) for coffee. They sit on a bench overlooking the city and have a casual but actually intense conversation. Thomas is more worried than he will say. Anders has greater reasons to worry than he will admit.