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Utoya 22. juli

On July 22nd 2011 an extreme right-wing assailant shot 69 people who were at the summer camp of the Norwegian social democratic Labor Party on the island of Utøya, Poppe shows the 72 minutes of the attack from the perspective of one of the victims ...


On July 22nd at 3:25 pm a car bomb exploded in front of the office of the Norwegian prime minister. While the police and the military used all their energies on Oslo, terrorist Andreas Breivik made his way to the island of Utøya in Tyrifjord 30 km away, a lake with a summer camp with youths from the Norwegian social-democratic labor party (AUF), and shot 69 people at close range until the police arrested the surrendering Breivik.

UTØYA 22. JULI, which ran in this year‘s Berlinale competition, was made by renowned Norwegian director Erik Poppe and shot in a single uncut steadycam sequence in quasi real time for 72 minutes. After the credits, which show the attack in Oslo, the film heads to Utøya and the youth camp where the events in the capital are being discussed. Issa is worried about what the attack will mean for Muslims in Norway, 18 year old Kaya is controlling of her younger sister Emilia who returns from swimming giggling. Then the first gun shots are heard and the teens flee to a barrack and then to the forest with its sparse pines that can barely offer any proection. The camera always stays on Kaja and experiences what she experiences, is with her in her first and second “hideout“ - a flat hollow behind a tree, a rock fissure by the water‘s edge, protected from above by a dry bush, and all of her desparate attempts to find her sister. Kaja meets other teens, sees a girl die from her wounds, and keeps trying to make calls to her mother, the police, and Emilia.

Director Erik Poppe developed the screenplay together with the survivors of the massacre and purposefully avoided picking out one specific story to tell in order to protect the victims. His Kaja is an amalgamation of many stories that the survivors and bereaved loved ones told him, and he showed the film to the victims first before it went out to the public. Other decisions are similarly programmatic and similarly situated between politics and aesthetics. The film was shot in a single take because Poppe wanted to capture the feeling of hopelessness and the time span of what the teens experienced over those 72 minutes. But of course the one take shot is also a film aesthetics exercise which directors have always dreamt of. Poppe does without music, and the gun shots that are fired in their full number seem all the more shocking because of it, Poppe also doesn‘t show the perpetrator because he wants to show the victims that have increasingly been forgotten while the radical right-wind keeps on growing in Norway.

I believe that UTØYA 22. JULI is a political matter for Erik Poppe and also that it was of utmost importance to him to implement this film with dignity and respect for the victims and survivors. At the same time, UTØYA 22. JULI is a gripping story that works according to film rules and conveys a visceral experience of existential danger that we usually enjoy while acknowledging that we can get up and leave at any time. Poppe doesn‘t radically break the rules of narrative cinema, like Gus Van Sant did in ELEPHANT for example, and he doesn‘t use all of its potential, like Kathryn Bigelow did in DETROIT to great effect. But would that have been better? What does an appropriate film version of real terrorism look like? Does it exist? The question will have to be asked more than once: Paul Greengrass‘ 22 JULY (BLOODY SUNDAY, FLIGHT 93) played in Venice and a Norwegian TV series about the event will run in 2019. The first adaptation of the material was released in 2012 (!) - a trashy shocker version by Vitaliy Versace.

“We have to create a collective awareness to remind people, to make them angry, and to encourage discussion and action – while searching for an answer to what we can do to prevent something like this in the future.“ This is what Erik Poppe said about his motivation for making the film. If it works, it means he definitely chose the “right“ form.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Utoya 22. juli
Norwegen 2018, 90 min
Genre: Drama
Director: Erik Poppe
Author: Siv Rajendram Eliassen, Anna Bache-Wiig
DOP: Martin Otterbeck
Montage: Einar Egeland
Music: Wolfgang Plagge
Distributor: Weltkino Filmverleih
Cast: Andrea Berntzen, Aleksander Holmen, Brede Fristad, Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne
FSK: 12
Release: 20.09.2018




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
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