The Worst Person in the World is the film of the year

Steven Watts, Features Editor

Image by Liam Killian

It’s a shame that there isn’t any easy access to international films near IWU. On Saturday, I made my longest trip to date to see a movie. I was on the fence about driving a couple of hours to Chicago to see Joachim Trier’s latest film The Worst Person in the World, but I would have driven three times the distance if I knew it would be so good.

The Worst Person in the World is a Norwegian film that follows Julie, a charismatic young woman, on a journey of self-discovery and love. The story is broken up into 12 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. Within each chapter Julie learns more about herself. The movie recently generated buzz after it was nominated for Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars nomination ceremony last week. 

One thing about The Worst Person in the World is clear: it’s not the typical rom-com that it’s advertised as. In an interview with Trust Nordisk, Trier said, “For a long time I have wanted to make a film about love. One that goes a bit deeper than normal onscreen love stories, where everything is so simple, the stories so clear-cut, the feelings so admirably unambiguous.”

The result of Trier’s intentions is a film that feels incredibly relatable. Julie’s life is riddled with the complications that we all find ourselves going through at some point in our lives. There is no love at first sight in the movie, there’s no magical circumstances that bring the characters together. The cliché aspects of the romantic comedy genre are replaced with moral dilemmas, identity crises and, above all, bad timing.

Perhaps the most crucial piece in making the film feel so personal is Renate Reinsve’s performance as Julie. I’m not sure how Reinsve didn’t earn a nomination for Best Actress at the Oscars, but she may have given the greatest acting performance I have ever seen. Julie feels like she’s the worst person in the world, which Reinsve conveys convincingly, while also proving that she’s not. Julie is both victim and offender, protagonist and antagonist; she suffers, but also causes suffering.

Trier later said in his interview that he wanted his film to explore “the difficulties of meeting someone when you’re struggling to figure out your own life,” which he does to perfection. The writing of the film is one of its greatest strengths. Every character has their own complexities and feels like a main character, even though Julie steals the show.

The film explores themes of nostalgia and reconciliation through the character of Aksel, played by Anders Danielsen Lie. Aksel is quite a bit older than Julie and their relationship is full of differences that are caused by the age gap. Aksel says he has started to “worship what had been” instead of embracing change. Lie gives the performance of his career, and was absolutely incredible as someone stuck in place in a changing world.

Of course I also have to emphasize the breathtaking cinematography that makes every shot feel like a work of art. Trier uses one technique frequently throughout the film where he puts a character in focus, shifts the focus to their surroundings, and then focuses back on the character. Every time he does this, he reminds the audience that these characters are one small piece of a much larger, more complex world.

Trier also uses parallels throughout the film to draw similarities between the characters. He puts different characters in the same positions, looking out a certain window, sitting in a certain chair, at different times. He draws on the emotions of earlier scenes in the film to illustrate how characters feel without the need for dialogue.

One scene in particular stood out as the most beautifully shot. In the scene, Julie pauses time and goes through a day in her life if she wasn’t in her current relationship. It’s this vision of how her life may be that pushes her further down a path of introspection. She’s constantly learning who she truly is.

Sometimes movies reach you at the right time, and this one definitely came to me when I needed it. Julie confronts a lot of feelings that I think everyone goes through at times. For a good portion of the movie, she’s simply scared. She can’t commit to one career path. She can’t commit to a relationship. She’s afraid of the permanence of her decisions that she’s forced to make at such a young age. She’s a very relatable character to those in their twenties that are still trying to figure out their lives and feel like the worst person in the world.

When The Worst Person in the World releases to streaming in a couple of months, I recommend it for everyone. I also encourage everyone to see international movies in theaters when you have the opportunity. 

As Bong Joon Ho said when accepting the award for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes in 2019, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

 

5/5 Stars