Oslo makes you claustrophobic. It seldom moves out of the inner chambers, roomy and commodious as they are. Nonetheless, indoors are indoors. And that’s where this play-on-film belongs.
In a rare sequence when the characters negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine step out into the snowcapped whiteness of Oslo, the self-important political film breathes easy. The magnetic Jeff Wilbusch playing the Israeli minister for foreign affairs, walks with his Palestinian counterpart. As they chat about their families, they both discover they have a daughter named Maya.
This in itself may not be much of an earth-shaker. But given the film’s narrow context it is a humane moment that stays with you. The rest of what transpires is of importance only to the two parties that signed the Oslo Accord. This is not to say I don’t care for world peace. I just don’t care to watch a dull plodding film about it.
Not that Oslo lacks in talent. It has a lineup of talented actors who are cast correctly according to their cultural antecedents. The main protagonists- the husband and wife team of Norwegians Mona Juul( Ruth Wilson) and Terje Rød-Larsen(Andrew Scott) are played by fine British actors who try to inject the proceedings with infectious energy. However, it all seems a bit contrived with diplomats and politicians from both ends trying to embody centuries of conflict and differences.
Oslo wears a heavy theatrical appearance from first to last. And with good reason. It is a celebrated play written by J T Rogers, who fatally, has also written the screenplay. Little wonder then that the conversations hardly ever move outdoors. In fact, the narrative hardly ever MOVES! Perhaps rendered frozen by the importance of what it is recording, Janusz Kamiński’s camera stays reverently inert. Kaminski is a regular on Steven Spielberg’s film. Here the theatre stamp inhibits his lenses, renders them wonderstruck.
Frozen in self-admiration this recreation of what came to be known as the Oslo Accord, a sort of extra-constitutional pact between Israel and Palestine facilitated by a Norwegian couple who have nothing to gain and everything to lose if the Accord fails, which it had every chance of doing, Oslo oscillates painfully between political drama and just drama. While applauding the couple’s initiative I wish their efforts were put into a more involving film.
The only time I felt happy watching Oslo was when the ever-beaming cook wheeled in the delicacies for the Palestine and Israeli peace-keepers. I am sure they could do with the break.
Image source: IMDb