Utøya: July 22 – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Erik Poppe
Writers: Siv Rajendram Eliassen (screenplay), Anna Bache-Wiig (screenplay)
Stars: Andrea Berntzen, Aleksander Holmen, Solveig Koløen Birkeland
On 22nd July 2011, a bomb was detonated in Oslo close to government buildings at about 3.25pm. It was a serious attack and the casualty list was eight dead and 209 injured. At the time of the attack a group of teenagers were on the island of Utøya, about 40 kilometres distant, who received snippets of information about the attack but communications with the island including mobile phone coverage was limited. They were attending a youth event organised by the Swedish Labour Party.
The film begins with the attack in Oslo but then moves to the island about two hours later where the teenagers are sorting themselves out into the their tents and discovering the overall lie of the land. Poppe follows in particular one girl Andrea, who is a fictional creation but based on the testimony of those on the island who survived the attack by the gunman who killed a further 69 people on Utøya.
Once the first shots ring out they continue to do so as lone shots or as part of a volley. The sound of them generates fear. The impact of the film is intensified in that it is shot in real time, namely seventy two minutes, which is the length of time that the teenagers had to endure the random shooting which was taking place around them and unable to discover any facts about why the shooting was taking place or who was carrying it out. The film was shot as one piece which gives added substance to the immediacy of what is being shown but in particular to the fleeing of Andrea helter skelter through the woods and along the rocky shore of the island.
Poppe shoots the entire film from the perspective of the teenagers trapped on the island. He manages to make central their complete bewilderment and fear as the sound of the gun fire is often very close. They have no knowledge of who is carrying out the attack and apart from a blurred figure who appears on a headland the audience also has no knowledge of who the perpetrator is. Poppe manages to create a deeply disturbing atmosphere.
It is a thought provoking movie which leaves no doubt in its end credits about the inherent violence of right wing extremists. As “justification” for the slaughter the attacker Anders Behring Breivik, who was convicted of both attacks, stated that he wanted the Swedish Labour party to change its policies. His means to try to achieve his purpose was to kill and maim very many individuals who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Utøya: July 22 is chilling.