Since 2015, Seventh Row has been committed to becoming the best source for criticism on and information about the films of Joachim Trier. Here, you’ll find links to all of our interviews and essays on the films, as well as background on the filmmaker and films based on these pieces.
About Joachim Trier
(Source: Seventh Row’s interviews with Trier and his team)
Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier has proven himself a master of his craft over the course of just four feature films: Reprise (2007); Oslo, August 31st (2011); Louder Than Bombs (2015); and Thelma (2017). His first documentary, The Other Munch (2018), was co-directed with his brother, Emil Trier, and has thus far had one international screening in New York City.
Trier is one of the most exciting filmmakers shaping the landscape of modern cinema. His first feature, Reprise, won the Toronto International Film Festival’s esteemed Discovery Award. His next two films both premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, the foremost tastemaking film festival in the world: Oslo, August 31st screened in the Un Certain Regard sidebar and Louder Than Bombs was upgraded to the elite Official Competition. Both Reprise and Thelma were Norway’s submissions for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, and Trier has picked up Best Director from the Amanda Awards — Norway’s Oscar equivalent — for his first three features. In 2013, he was featured in the New York Times’ as one of 20 Directors to Watch. He has repeatedly won top honours at the Amanda Awards and Critics Awards, and has been a critical darling since his debut feature.
Yet very little information is currently publicly available about Trier, from basic biographical details to analysis on his ongoing collaborations with co-writer Eskil Vogt, cinematographer Jakob Ihre, editor Olivier Bugge Couttée, and actor Anders Danielsen Lie. While Trier has done interviews with the press about each of his films, there has yet to be an in-depth exploration of his unconventional approach to making movies, from writing, to directing, to editing. To our knowledge, Seventh Row’s two Special Issues on Trier’s most recent films — Louder Than Bombs and Thelma — are the most in-depth critical studies of these films, which include conversations with Trier and his collaborators about their inspirations, influences, and approach to making these films a reality.
All four of Trier’s features thus far are characterized by deep psychological insight and empathy. Through the use of voice-over, montage, subjective soundscape, complex non-linear editing, and mise en scene, Trier has developed an innovative approach for depicting thought processes and subjective perspectives on screen. By merging multiple styles and influences, ranging from social realism to the French New Wave, Trier has built on the past to create an entirely new, contemporary cinema. In our interviews with Trier and his collaborators, we explore these influences and approaches and how Trier collaborates to make these a reality.
Co-writer Eskil Vogt
Eskil Vogt is a Norwegian writer and director; his first feature was Blind. Vogt has also co-written all of Joachim Trier’s short and features with him. For each film, Vogt and Trier discuss the ideas for a script, and then Vogt writes up the script himself. Vogt remains involved in the entire process of making the film — from casting to the final edit — although he no longer attends the shoot (as he did for Reprise). Vogt and Trier are close friends, and they remain in close contact throughout the shoot. (Source: Seventh Row interview with Eskil Vogt)
Cinematographer Jakob Ihre
Swedish cinematographer Jakob Ihre met Trier at film school, and they have been collaborating on all of Trier’s features and shorts since. Ihre has shot films and commercials in Scandinavia and the US, including The End of the Tour (2015), starring Jesse Eisenberg who would later star in Louder Than Bombs (2015).
“He’s very unique, Joachim. He’s very talented with a very clear vision. He’s very knowledgeable and very hands on. He is the textbook definition of a film director: he directs everyone – not only the actors but all the department heads. But he still remains a wonderful team player and collaborator who makes everyone feel like it’s their film, too. I find that the crews on his sets really, really care about the film! The films become very personal, not only because of the scripts, but also because of the making of it. Everyone is really putting so much into them because we really feel we are part of the making of the film”. – Jakob Ihre
Editor Olivier Bugge Couttée
One of Couttée’s trademarks as an editor is a knack for complex montage, something he has explored with American director Mike Mills with Beginners (2010). This skill has been key to Couttée’s ongoing collaboration with Joachim Trier; they’ve worked together on all of Trier’s features.
Sound Designer Gisle Tveito
Trier’s father was a sound designer, and he cites this as a major influence on why he is so interested in the sound in his films and in crafting an intricate, emotional soundscape. Tveito has worked on all of Trier’s features.
Actor Anders Danielsen Lie
Though Anders Danielsen Lie made his first film as a child (the unexpected hit Herman (1990)), and his mother is Norwegian actress Tone Danielsen, Reprise was the first film he made as an adult. The collaboration with Trier was so successful that Trier and Vogt wrote Oslo, August 31st specifically for Lie to star in. Lie has since worked in film and television in Norway, France, and the US.
“I think [Joachim] believes that the more complexity, the better. Most of the time, with other directors, I don’t always think that that’s a good idea, to aim for more complexity or ambivalence. But with him, it works.” – Anders Danielsen Lie, Seventh Row interview
“Joachim is very involving. He likes to direct a lot. There is almost no other director I could discuss psychological issues in depth with on set because it’s just not so productive. You have to find solutions. But with Joachim, it’s just the way that we like to work together. He’s also not afraid of being very analytical and very honest about almost everything. You can go really deep between two takes.” – Anders Danielsen Lie, Seventh Row interview
Anders Danielsen Lie discusses his film 22 July, its similarities to Oslo, August 31st, working with Joachim Trier, and his career as a whole.
Trier has directed two short films: Still (2001) and Procter (2002). Unfortunately, neither are available online or in North America.
“My early short films are very meticulously spatially thought out. Doing a feature like Reprise, I couldn’t control it all. That was a liberating thing. I had to learn to be more intuitive. Also, I was working more with actors, and that challenges the plan in a very positive way.” – Joachim Trier, Louder Than Bombs Interview Part 1
In addition to his work in film, Trier has directed several commercials for Scandinavian brands, including SpareBank 1, the Norwegian Lotto, Hafslund, Elko, and Involveyourself.com. These feature similar approaches to dense editing and montage as he has explored in his films. You can watch his commercials here.
Joachim Trier’s feature debut, Reprise, is an ambitious coming-of-age story centred around two protagonists. It marked the beginning of an ongoing feature film collaboration with his key technical team. Anders Danielsen Lie’s performance was a revelation, and marked Trier out as a director with a keen eye for spotting acting talent; the young, relatively untested leads in Louder Than Bombs (Devin Druid) and Thelma (Eili Harboe) proved also particularly talented.
In “Joachim Trier continues to develop his dirty formalism” for our Special Issue on Thelma, Alex Heeney wrote about the connections between Reprise and Oslo, August 31st, and how these bear a resemblance to the connections between Louder than Bombs and Thelma.
“Actors, skilled actors, are open to being — I wouldn’t use the world “manipulated” but — stimulated to try to reach something that ultimately they have to bring, which is the whole interplay between directing and acting. You can never micromanage performance. You’ve got to trust. In this case, I had some amazing actors. I couldn’t be happier.” – Joachim Trier, Louder Than Bombs Interview Part 1
Oslo August 31st (2011)
This film really put Trier on the international film scene in a major way after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, this is the film that really put Trier on the international film scene in a major way. Many critics cite it as one of the best films of the 21st century.
We have written in the past about why Oslo, August 31st is a great film. In our Special Issue on Louder Than Bombs , we also published an essay comparing the depictions of depression and loneliness in Oslo, August 31st to that in Louder Than Bombs.
In her essay on Joachim Trier’s dirty formalism, Alex Heeney explains that “Oslo, August 31st is like a feature-length expansion of the secondary protagonist in Reprise, Philip (Anders Danielsen Lie). Philip was a brilliant writer who lost his mind when he achieved success, becoming suicidal. While Reprise focused on the consequences of Philip’s artistic ambition, Oslo, August 31st told the story of a similarly talented writer, Anders (again played by Anders Danielsen Lie), but looked at how he dealt with his depression and suicidal feelings after destroying his career.”
Louder Than Bombs (2015)
Joachim Trier’s sublime English-language debut, Louder Than Bombs, is an engrossing and empathetic look at a family recovering from trauma. Our Special Issue on Louder Than Bombs features a two-part interview with Joachim Trier (conducted first at the Cannes Film Festival, right after the film’s world premiere, and then at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it made its North American premiere), an interview with cinematographer Jakob Ihre, an essay on the film’s non-linear structure, and an essay comparing themes in Louder than Bombs to those in Oslo, August 31st . Together, these reveal Trier’s influences, inspirations, and preoccupations, the nature of his collaborations, and what makes Louder Than Bombs one of the best films of the 21st century.
“Oslo, August 31st deals with addiction and depression, and I would certainly say these are elements in the mother character in this one, but the point of view is very much more from the family.” – Joachim Trier, Seventh Row Louder than Bombs Interview Part 1
“People talk about the death of cinema, and they talk about the death of the novel. The novel has reinvented itself and changed form and been experimental and, therefore, has survived. I think movies should be inspired by that — the spirit of the possibility of the dramaturgy not being one thing. The dramaturgy or the structure of your telling is up for grabs, and it’s personal.” – Joachim Trier, Seventh Row Louder than Bombs Interview Part 1
“How to show thinking in cinema, it’s something I’m really interested in. I get so pissed when people say, “Oh, thinking, that’s for the novel. Cinema is about the exterior”. I disagree. Film can be incredibly subjective.” – Joachim Trier, Louder Than Bombs Interview Part 2
“I don’t want to take voice-over as an easy cop-out just to tell something that I’m not representing visually. It always has to stand in contrast, to show something other than the visual, to be creatively interesting. So we were doing all kinds of weird voice-over tricks here and there.” – Joachim Trier, Louder Than Bombs Interview Part 2
Joachim Trier discusses how he experimented with film form to show us the subjectivity of memory, the importance of two-shots and closeups in the film, and how he used physical spaces to convey emotional meaning.
Louder Than Bombs makes use of a non-linear structure, with voice-overs from multiple character to tell the story of a family which is constantly switching perspectives from one character to another.
Cinematographer Jakob Ihre discusses Louder Than Bombs, collaborating with Joachim Trier, his aesthetic influences from Tarkovsky to Lichtenstein, and capturing performances.
Where Oslo, August 31st is clear cut in its fatalistic story of exile, that sense of estrangement in Louder than Bombs is much more complex and optimistic.
Thelma marks Trier’s first foray into genre territory, though our Special Issue on Thelma reveals, especially through our interview with co-write Eskil Vogt, that the film still features similar techniques and themes as Trier’s previous work. The main difference was the starting point: to write Thelma, Trier and Vogt started with images rather than themes and characters, as they had done in their previous films. Still, the approaches to shooting and filmmaking are remarkably similar even though Thelma is a more overtly stylized film.
Thelma is also Trier’s first film without any voice-over. In “Joachim Trier’s Dirty Formalism”, Alex Heeney explains that “In Louder Than Bombs, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) was the only major character who did not have a voice-over. Fittingly, Thelma is like a feature-length exploration of the parent-child relationship between Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) and his mother, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert): loving, but so close it was toxic…Both Jonah and Thelma spend their respective films learning to detach from a dependent relationship with a parent…Thelma’s devoutly Christian father provides her with tenderness and support — but his attention is subtly controlling and isolates her from her peers. Thelma’s outsize need for his approval causes her to suppress her romantic feelings for a female classmate, ultimately wreaking havoc.”
Co-writer Eskil Vogt discusses approaching genre cinema for the first time, depicting characters’ interiority on screen, and his collaboration with director Joachim Trier.
Director Joachim Trier discusses the dynamic between the subjective and objective gaze, portraying a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship, and the stylization of his first genre film.
Cinematographer Jakob Ihre discusses adapting to shooting on itital, lighting different characters for a thematic purpose, and how production design affects his creative choices.
Although it is his first foray into genre, Thelma is a continuation of director Joachim Trier’s signature ‘dirty formalism’, and further explores the themes of family dysfunction found in his previous work.
Thelma has been compared to Brian De Palma’s Carrie, but Trier gives his female lead agency whereas Carrie was simply a victim.