Critique of “The worst person in the world”: Oslo, in his own way
For a while, it looks like that will involve picking the right man. Julie’s (Vidar Sandem) father is a neglectful narcissist, and she’s lucky that Aksel and Eivind are, on the whole, much nicer guys. Part of this is a sign of generational progress – not that 21st century Norway, as Julie experiences it, is exactly a feminist utopia.
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Shortly after their first meetings, Aksel attempts to end his relationship with Julie due to the age difference, fearing that their incompatible expectations will cause problems between them. “That’s when she fell in love with him,” notes the narrator, before Julie proves him right.
Her Gen X friends, struggling with parenthood and the specter of middle age, look nerdy and compromised in her millennial eyes. He is well established in his career, and even a little famous, thanks to an underground comic that Julie finds “vaguely sexist”. (He would later be denounced by a radio critic as irredeemably sexist.) She can’t help but feel his patience with her as condescension, his self-confidence as complacency. (In this, their relationship resembles that between the characters of Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps in Mia Hansen-Love’s “Bergman Island.”)
One night, Julie moves away from Aksel and plans a wedding, where she meets Eivind. He is also in a relationship and they spend the evening testing the line between flirtation and infidelity. Technically, they stay on the right side of that line, even if their chaste interactions are hotter than some actual sex scenes in the film.
Nobody is perfect. When Aksel praises an essay written by Julie, she is incredulous and encouraged. When Eivind compliments her writing, she becomes indignant. Aksel is too intellectual; Eivind is not intellectual enough. “Do you plan to continue serving coffee until you’re 50?” she laughs at him. In the meantime, she is still working at the bookstore.
So she’s not the nicest person in the world. One thing you might notice is that she doesn’t seem to have any friends. Is it because of its flaws or evidence of an imaginative blind spot on Trier and Vogt’s part? Reinsve’s performance is lively, inventive and grounded – she fully deserved the acting prize she won at Cannes last year – but to some extent Julie remains a middle-aged man’s idea. of a younger woman. If that sounds like a reprimand, I would add that the same goes for Anna Karenina, Hedda Gabler, and most of the heroines of Henry James. Also, as a middle-aged man myself, I don’t entirely trust my reaction to the character.
Who does the film take her for? It’s a different question than the one I started with, but it’s an interesting question on its own, and a Trier is honest enough to leave it open. If “The Worst Person in the World” is about Julie’s indecisiveness, it’s also about Trier’s ambivalence. Part of the suspense in the movie comes from him wondering what he’s going to do with her and if, as much as he loves her, he can find a way to set her free.
The worst person in the world
Rated R. Sex, Drugs and Art Cover by Garfunkel of “Waters of March” by Tom Jobim. In Norwegian, with subtitles. Duration: 2 hours 7 minutes. In theaters.