Oslo, August 31 is a film about a time and a place. And within those rather profound parameters, something is bound to happen. It will happen to you and it will happen to all of us, and eventually there will be no one left to remember it. There will be no one to wonder if anything happened, only a new Oslo, another August 31. A fresh start, maybe.
You owe it to yourself to check out last week’s selection of the Cape Breton Island Film Series, Oslo, August 31. It is raw, it is real, it is beautiful, and like all things beautiful, it is devastating. The film follows Anders, a 34-year-old recovering drug addict released from rehab for the day to attend a job interview. In that small window of freedom, he reaches out to friends and family, to his past life, in the uncertain hope of finding a future. Instead, Anders’ day seems to expose the myth of second chances and challenge humanity’s ethical claims at forgiveness. The people Anders reconnects with may love him, but they have also left him behind. Their casual words of kindness are drowned in a day of silence and contemplation. The lesson: that love is not enough, and so may not be anything at all.
Is there hope to be found through the streets of Oslo on August 31? There has to be. Though last Thursday, as the credits rolled silently by, a pin dropped, and I wondered how. Like Anders, we are left alone with heavy hearts and loaded thoughts. But hope? In a film that so masterfully evokes the morose isolation of a single man on a single day, in a place crowded with emptiness, perhaps the hope we are looking for can only be found in ourselves. If only we can come away with something more. If we can understand, and forgive, and love. Ourselves and one another. In this place and time. Maybe that will be our second chance.
This week, we move from the hard, concrete realities of Oslo, August 31, to a flowing, surreal dreamdance in Wim Wenders’ Pina. This 3-D documentary presents the strange and marvelous work of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal dance ensemble. The late German choreographer Pina is renowned for experimenting with conflicted forms, bodies flailing among natural elements, perturbed movements in serene outdoor landscapes. The world is Pina’s stage, and director Wenders takes on the immense task of capturing it—or perhaps setting it free—in 3-D.
Pina was an active part of this project and died of cancer just two days before filming began. Wenders considered stopping production, but Pina’s dancers were committed to seeing her work through. And so, rather than a film that puts Pina at its centre, we are offered a sort of eulogy, a tribute, a film in which she exists in the spaces and silence.
Anyone fortunate enough to attend last year’s screening of Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams should need no convincing that 3-D film has a rightful place in the artist’s arsenal. And the documentarian has proven particularly skilled at understanding the richness of this medium. Herzog took us deep into the Chauvet cave and deeper into its history than we dared imagine possible. Now Wenders aspires to take us just as deeply into our own story. Again we are offered a view from within, and through this spectacular exploration, we are tempted to dance among the moving narrative of bodies. Here, the work and life of Pina Bausch is not only ours to see, but ours to experience.
Chances are, Pina will leave its audiences as stunned and lost for words as last week’s heavy hitter. Only now, we trust, in the silence our hearts will be filled with something beautiful and unfamiliar. Hope will resurface, powerfully and with ease. Our eyes will be dazzled, our minds invigorated, our hearts left longing for new joy.
Or so we can only hope.
Win Wenders’ Pina plays in 3-D this Thursday at 7pm at Empire Theaters Studio 10.