The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World

sometimes it feels as if i am returning to the same place in my dreams—a world that isn’t this one, but is made up of verisimilous fragments. what happens in these dreams isn’t ever related to what happened before, and they are never forecasts of what comes next. it is just this deeply primitive feeling of: i have been here before; i will return here again.

when i wake from these dreams, the details slip away quickly. i am left instead with a years’ long, lingering feeling that i have been misplaced back into this world, where i have no sense that i have been here before, no sense that i will return here again. i am simply here, the pervasive present overwhelming the lush fantasy of a comforting past or unthreatening future.

in this way i feel i am more of a true self in these dreams—completely detached from any sense of self, or better yet, any futile need to define or create or discover or proclaim an identity.

The Worst Person is the World captures this terrible yearning twofold. Julie—a capital-Y, capital-P 21st-century Young Person—is constantly undoing herself in order to become Someone again. she is a Medical Student, then a Psychology Student, before abandoning the world of science and psychoanalysis for the act of becoming a Photographer and a Writer. for money, she is a Bookseller. in between all of this, she is also quick, self-involved, constantly in the pursuit of pleasure, and quietly overwhelmed by the feeling that the once infinite oyster of the world is closing its mouth tighter and tighter, the pearl of alluring possibility inches from being swallowed away forever.

this quest to Find Oneself is definitive of the coming-of-age genre—and it’s both a great comfort and terrible embarrassment to me. comforting because I see myself in it, and fucking mortifying because I See Myself In It. put down this vanity mirror—I thought by 25, i’d be looking less at my navel or my reflection in passing windows, and more thoughtfully at that big world i so wanted to be part of when i was 14, 15, 16. but no—here i am looking back at me. 

and whether i like what i see doesn’t even matter as much as whether you like what you think you see. this is what Joachim Trier gets so right: that discovering yourself is only the terrible, seemingly neverending set-up. the punchline is that gutwrenching feeling that you want that carefully cultivated Self—artsy or analytical, bookish or bold, sexy and smart and not at all too serious—to be seen by others. you want to be praised. you want to be protected, defended. you want someone to laugh at your jokes. you want someone to want you from across the room. you want to be someone so you can forget yourself for awhile. you want affirmation you are here, time is moving, and you’re not being left behind, forgotten by all, remembered by none.

so Julie, the Student-Photographer-Writer, is also a Great Party Guest who dates another Artist and wants to be seen by a Barista and Doesnt Want Kids but maybe also wants to be a Good Mother. these are both invitations and preemptive defenses: come and see what you like—but if you do, that means you were here, and so was i.

in my dreams, none of this part matters. the places i go and the people there don’t need to receive me, let alone accept me. dreaming is completely self-involved, with no crutch of needing attention to affirm yourself worthy of love, forgiveness, desire, understanding. 

in The Worst Person in the World, all of this matters a great deal—and it’s wonderful. it’s wonderful to see this uncertainty and self-consciousness and doubt play out beautifully by Renate Reinsve, who is both so cocky and so careful to not be seen as a person whose dreams might be too precious for this world. the film opens itself up to the possibility of both escaping into fantasy and finding footing in a cruel, sobering reality—the act of dreaming, and the act of waking.

it’s really really really good. it was also terribly comforting and wonderfully difficult. it felt a bit like maybe i’d been there before—or that soon i’ll return to it again