Never before has a Norwegian film won two Oscar nominations at Hollywood’s Academy Awards. Now one has, and it confirms that director Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World” ranks among the best films in the world.
Not only did Trier’s film, shot on location in Oslo, win one of the five coveted nominations in the Academy’s category for Best International Film. It also won an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay, no small feat when it since it was written in Norwegian and not English. Trier wrote the screenplay with Eskil Vogt and it’s won highly favourable reviews for how it tells the story of a smart, young Norwegian woman who can’t quite figure out who she is or where she’s going.
In October the Norwegian Film Institute chose “The Worst Person in the World” (Verdens verste mennesker) to represent Norway in the race for the Best International Film award. It already had some tough competition within Norway, and had been shortlisted against Den største forbrytelsen about the deportation of Jewish Norwegians to Nazi death camps, and the popular film Ninjababy.
Prizes already for the film’s star
Trier’s film, however, had already grabbed international attention when it premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival last spring, where its star Renate Reinsve also won the festival’s own prize for best actress. That, in addition to her other awards and nominations including from BAFTO in the UK, raised speculation that Reinsve might win an Oscar nomination for best actress, too. That didn’t happen, but the young actress from Drammen lost out only to rather good company: Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Chastain and Kristen Stewart.
The Worst Person in the World went on to be shown at lots of other international film festivals and it was bought up for worldwide distribution as well. It quickly won rave reviews from critics, with TIME magazine, for example, ranking it second on its own list of the 10 best films of 2021. TIME’s reviewers called it a “staggeringly tender comedy-drama” that “feels like a gift from the gods,” high praise for a relatively low-budget Norwegian film.
Reinsve plays a character, Julie, who’s smart and funny and passionate about choices she makes in life, at least when she first makes them, only to fail to follow through with those choices or simply lose interest. She manages to win admission to medical school but drops out, dabbling in other fields until she falls in love first with one man (a highly successful cartoonist), then crashes a party and meets another man with whom she falls in love, too. Then the indecisive Julie seems to lose her way despite almost undeserved support and attempted understanding from both men, Behind her are also an always-forgiving divorced mother, but also an absent father who never gave Julie the attention he now gives a younger daughter in a new relationship. That clearly hurt.
Norway has won Oscars for best documentary film (Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki in 1951) and for best animated short film (Den danske dikteren) directed by Toril Kove, but never for best International Feature Film (or best “foreign language film” as the prize used to be called). “The Worst Person in the World” is up against tough competition from Japan’s “Drive My Car,” Denmark’s “Flee,” Italy’s “The Hand of God” and Bhutan’s “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom.”
Trier and Vogt, who wrote the original screenplay together, face big-time international competition, too, from the screenplays for films including “Belfast” “Don’t Look Up,” “King Richard” and “Licorice Pizza.” Commentators in Norway called their Oscar nomination everything from “very surprising” to “amazing,” since it’s highly unusual for a non-English-language screenplay to win such a nomination.
Winners will be announced at the Oscar gala in Hollywood on March 27. Meanwhile champagne bottles were already popping open Tuesday afternoon in Oslo, which is thoughtfully portrayed in the film that has won the city lots of international publicity. All involved feel like they’re already winners. “I think I blacked out a bit when they read out the nominations,” Trier told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after becoming the country’s first filmmaker to win two.
“I’m just very glad to be in such good company with all these nominations,” Vogt told NRK. The film won rave reviews when it was finally released in Norway last fall and had been seen by more than 200,000 Norwegians by December.