Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s third tribute to Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s “Worst Man in the World” tells the story of Julie when she is guided by self-love, romance and the intersection of the two.
The titles say a lot about the film. Marvel films famously open with intricate animation, while genre films, such as romantic comedy, often choose to montage characters put to music. Joachim Trier’s “Worst Man in the World” (2021) in the introduction has simple, bold basic colors. The titles also reappear at the end of the film, reflecting Trier’s views on the cyclical nature of life and relationships.
The film consists of 12 chapters and begins with a prologue representing Julie (Renate Raineswe), a nearly 30-year-old girl who stumbles into adulthood. When we first meet her, she is reluctant to be a medical student who quickly throws away her potential career in favor of psychology before deciding what her true passion is – photography – before she eventually gets a hands-on concert at a bookstore.
Everything in her life is unstable and constantly changing, from her hair – at one point long and bright blonde, short and pink to another – to her guys – a sloppy professor or a tall hairless model. However, much of the film is about Julie’s relationship with Axel (Anders Danielsen Lies), a somewhat daring, vaguely sexist graphic writer of the 1940s, who Julie claims fell in love the moment she was rejected by him. At the other end is Evind (Herbert Nordrum), a barista whom Julie meets at a party and who meets an environmentalist obsessed with yoga. Where Julie despises Axel’s inability to feel things without analyzing them, she resents Avinda for his tendency to do the opposite.
“The Worst Man in the World” more elegantly evokes the romantic realism explored in “500 Days of Summer,” which flips through romantic advice and reveals the consequences – and ultimately, the resulting growth – of frustration in relationships. Trier proves that there are no age restrictions in the film about growing up, creating an anti-romantic comedy that focuses on how love and relationships shape a person, not the other way around.
Raineswe subtly accepts Julie’s uncertainty and difficulty in an extremely emotional performance, making even a two-hour film feel insufficient time with her. Despite his original role as a romantic antagonist, Axel of Lies proves to be one of the hardest in the film, while Evind of Nordrum shines in one of the most charming cute stories in film lately.
Trier’s notion of filmmaking combines naturalistic sequences with dreamy ones for more active viewing, while undermining genre conventions. In an attempt to consider what life would be like if she made a different choice, there are several scenes in which Julie stops time, such as when she runs through the frozen streets of Oslo to the sounds The Dreamy Score of Ola Flotuma. Desperate for control, she figuratively –– and literally –– clicks the switch; on the verge of a serious conversation with Axel, she breaks into a sprint as she heads to the coffee shop where Evind works.
Part of the film’s magic is the unique lens it applies to Oslo, ensuring that no other city has ever looked so beautiful. Only Julie and Evind are on the move, allowing them to spend the day together without the influence of partners – or the world – around them.
But this idealized, fantasy version of what their relationship might be like proves that the ease with which Julie seems to enter into a relationship isn’t really lasting. There is a difference between your initial perception of someone and who they really are, and Julie’s problem is that she often forgets about it. In a particularly mocking expression on her face, she straightens the hands of the couple frozen in the middle of the kiss before winking at the camera and heading home, reluctantly returning to reality.
In an interview discussing the film’s more philosophical quest, Trier paraphrases Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who said, “We can only understand our life backwards, but we are forced to live it forward.”
This confusion drives Julie’s personal, professional, and romantic choices, which only feel confirmed at the end of the film when we understand how they shaped her into a fuller version of herself. Everything from the novelistic structure to the resonant cinematography of Casper Tuxen defines “The Worst Man in the World” as one of the best films of this year – and perhaps this decade. Nominated for the 94th Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay, you can fall in love, laugh, cry and redirect the course of your entire life with Julie.
Contact Lorena Camps at [email protected]