The Worst Person in the World
Renate Reinsve won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for the revelatory, complex performance that anchors this sprawlingly novelistic film by Norwegian auteur Joachim Trier, an emotionally intricate and exhilarating character study of a woman entering her thirties. Amid the seemingly endless possibilities of the modern world, Julie (Reinsve) vacillates between artistic passions and professions, the question of motherhood, and relationships with two very different men: a successful comic-book artist (Trier regular Anders Danielsen Lie) and a charismatic barista (Herbert Nordrum). Working with a team of longtime collaborators, Trier and his perennial cowriter Eskil Vogt construct in The Worst Person in the World, the Oscar-nominated third entry in their unofficial Oslo Trilogy, a liberating portrait of self-discovery and a bracingly contemporary spin on the romantic comedy.
The Criterion Collection releases Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World on Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a 2K master. The film was shot in 35mm but was scanned in 2K resolution and completed in a fully digital workflow.
With the film being so new I wasn’t anticipating many issues and those expectations were mostly met. The image is crisp and clean with a high level of detail and sharply defined textures. Film grain is present and looks clean, Criterion’s encode rendering it nicely.
Colours are bright and vibrant, reds and blues looking especially nice. Black levels are mostly strong but there are a few sequences where they come out looking a bit milky, which can lead to a flatter looking image. I was also surprised to see some small scratches and other tiny marks pop up here and there, usually sticking out in the darker scenes. I assume they were picked up in the initial scan and then just left in place.
Incredibly minor issues aside the high-def presentation looks great.
The disc comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Dialogue sounds clear and sharp and is mixed effectively through the front speakers. Surround activity is limited primarily to the film’s music soundtrack and score along with some ambient effects. The music is effectively mixed between the speakers and it’s loud when needed, never sounding distorted.
Criterion puts together a decent little special edition for the film, starting things off with a shockingly thorough 50-minute making-of documentary created by Criterion and featuring interviews with Trier, screenwriter Eskil Vogt, sound designer Gisle Tveito, and actors Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie and Herbert Nordrum. Divided into a chapter structure similar to the film’s the documentary first features Trier and Vogt covering their early work before talking about their intentions with this project, which started out as their take on a romantic genre picture. The chapter around casting and the actors ends up being of specific interest since it comes out here that there was an extensive amount of improvisation throughout the film, portions like the “cheating” sequence being entirely improvised. A quick shot where Julie (Renate Reinsve) is surprised to discover she owns two copies of the same book was also improvised and happened because the prop department had accidentally included the two copies. It turns out most of the film's montages were all improvised. The documentary also delves into a number of technical details including a section around the film’s sound design where Tveito mentions that he even went as far as “tuning” some effects to the music in a scene. There’s also a whole section devoted to the in-film comic book Gaupe.
Surprisingly the documentary doesn’t feature much about the film’s elaborate fantasy sequence where time literally freezes for our protagonist, but it’s such an intricate and technically complicated sequence it appears Criterion decided to break that out into its own 17-minute feature, Frozen in Time. The special effects for the sequence turn out to have been practical in nature with very little CGI, digital work limited to cleaning up backgrounds and removing supports that aided in holding props and actors in place. It’s captivating to view the behind-the-scenes footage around filming and both Trier and director of photography Kasper Tuxen discuss the technical difficulties. Trier and Tuxen also talk about the decision to use film and the nightmare introduced for Tuxen thanks to the film's heavy use of whites. It’s a nicely edited and fun addition to the release.
Four deleted scenes then close off the disc features. The most interesting of the four is a lengthy 5-minute split screen sequence around Julie and Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) messaging each other, though spreading their responses out over time to, I assume, not appear desperate. Trier mentions this scene in the making-of and he's right to have cut it as it would have brought the film to a halt, but it's still a technically impressive sequence and I'm glad to have seen it on its own here.
The only academic addition is the essay found in the included insert, written by Sheila O’Malley. It’s a fine read about the film and its central character but I feel some on-disc academic interview would have added a nice boost to the release, maybe even something specific around the film being part of a loose trilogy that includes Trier's Reprise and Oslo, 31 August. This fact is really only mentioned in passing in the documentary and essay.
As it is, despite the short total runtime of everything the features do pull off an incredible job covering the film’s production.
Criterion's special edition isn't the stacked one I would have expected but it still offers a comprehensive look into the film's intriguing production.