Growing up can be more difficult and dark than we think, and Joachim Trier's relatable yet obscure films are proof of it. See how, with a short filmography, he's managed to become one of the most prominent filmmakers of our time.
There are two types of filmmakers in the industry: those who jump from genre to genre and end up being random directors, and those who are clear about what they want to create and devote their careers to one subject or style. In my opinion, the latter are the most memorable and the ones who have left a greater mark in the history of cinema. It’s not that hard to see it. Just think of the greatest directors and filmmakers. Those who create what we call auteur cinema have their own thing, and that is what makes them so special and relevant.
Take Hitchcock, for example. He focused on suspense and revolutionized the genre with his innovative use of music and the frames and takes he incorporated to create a unique atmosphere. On the other hand, Tarantino’s fascination with bloody revenge and violence, along with his encyclopedic knowledge of references and great soundtracks, is amazing. Wes Anderson has the ability to take us into a timeless and whimsical land where color palettes merge with the most extravagant characters dressed in the most eccentric costumes.
I could mention several other iconic filmmakers, but you get my point. The thing is that, although these icons are awesome, and some of them are still making films, we can’t only watch what they make. We have to expand our horizons and let other perspectives into our lives. With that in mind, let's talk about filmmakers who, even though they've been working for a while now, aren’t as famous as they should be. That’s the case of Joachim Trier, a Norwegian director who with only four movies under his belt has managed to create a whole school of cinema worth following.
Trier, who comes from a long line of directors and filmmakers (he’s even a distant relative of Lars Von Trier), started out as one of the top skateboarders in Norway, shooting and editing his own skateboarding videos. Soon, he got the film bug and decided to make his own name as a filmmaker. He studied at the European Film College in Copenhagen and the National Film & Television School in the UK. In 2006 his opera prima, Reprise, was released, and from that moment on he has focused on giving a fresh and unique vibe to modern cinema. His movies focus mainly on the themes of memory and identity, but also in the process of growing up, as well as the struggles of finding and understanding our own identity. Here is his filmography and how these themes, even when they are explored in different genres, share a cohesive signature.
As I mentioned before, Reprise was Trier's first feature film. It’s a dramatic comedy that tells the story of two friends and their struggle to become the best writers of their time. Erik and Phillip have always idolized an author called Sten Egil Fahl, so they decide to follow his footsteps and write and publish a manuscript. One manuscript is rejected, while the other one becomes an overnight sensation in the literary scene. Yet, the thrill of success doesn't last very long, since Phillip soon ends up developing psychotic and obsessive feelings for a woman he falls in love with. Analyzing how vulnerable we are when growing up, Trier gives us some heartbreaking insight into how difficult things can get when we’re not mature enough to face the different obstacles life puts in front of us.
Oslo, August 31st (2011)
A more serious film, Oslo, August 31st was praised by critics around the world. It tells the story of Anders, a drug addict in rehab who doesn’t seem to be willing to treat his addiction, not even when finding out that his family has sold their house and to pay for the treatment. One day, he gets permission to leave the facility to go to a job interview, but after confessing he has a drug problem and ruining any chances he had of getting the job, he decides to spend the day doing whatever he wants. As the day progresses, he starts noticing how things aren't like they were before he started the treatment. As a result, his old habits start coming back, showing him (and us) that age isn’t just a number, but rather a will to mature, a will that neither he nor his friends seem to have.
Louder Than Bombs (2015)
This one’s his first movie in English, and it's a more international production. A renowned war photographer dies in a terrible car accident, and years later she’s being honored in a ceremony that intends to showcase some of her most iconic and important works. As the event is being planned, the family dynamics start to crumble, when both of her sons discover that this wasn’t really an accident but a suicide. Not knowing what pushed her to kill herself, her husband and two sons start having regressions and fail to make mature decisions in their lives, often running away from reality.
Lastly, Trier makes a huge genre switch with his latest film, which is classified as horror. In Thelma, a college student realizes that she has telekinetic powers. In a weird parallel, she struggles to understand what these powers mean for her, while also dealing with the process of growing up and all the strange and new feelings she experiences with her sexual awakening. Overprotected by her religious parents, Thelma was educated in a conservative household where heterosexuality was the only option, which becomes problematic when she becomes attracted to a female classmate. These new experiences, both condemned by her parent’s beliefs, will bring her entire life upside down.
Unlike what most people might think, growing up isn't just a process we go through in our adolescence. It's also related to a mental state that not everybody even manages to reach. Trier's films are proof of this by showing us characters in a dark and harsh process of understanding themselves and unveiling their true identity.
You should definitely add these to your next movie marathon: