Utøya: July 22

Utøya: July 22

I’m Norwegian.

That doesn’t give me the right to say this film is personal to me. I knew no one who was there that day, nor pretend to understand the trauma the survivors, friends, and families have experienced in the last seven years. However, because I am Norwegian, I live in a country with five million people. With five million people, someone knows someone who knows someone who was there, me included.

So, when I heard that Erik Poppe was making this movie I was incredibly reserved. It’s too soon, It’s opening old wounds, it’s exploitative was on my lips every time someone asked me about it. I gave in yesterday because I heard that another movie about 22 July was premiering at Venice Film Festival. I read the plot, found the director, and researched its production. I felt even more uneasy. An overview of the terror and its aftermath, an American director with no ties to the event, and all in English. Current reviews say "22 July" is for an international audience, aimed to showcase not only that day, but the consequences that came after, basing its characters on real people who were there.

22 July is for the world. Utøya 22 juli is for Norway, they say.

So, i said fuck it, got out my notepad, and bought the film. Unsurprisingly, my note taking stopped 2 minutes later, when Kaja, the main character, looks directly into the camera and tells her parents (really, the audience): “You will never understand.” The next 90 minutes is an unforgiving veristic depiction of what happened that day, with Poppe’s pacing being the films strongest point. 90 minutes feels like forever, not only because the subject leaves the viewer feeling weighed down by their own emotions, but because the uninterrupted shot lets us see every second of Kaja’s experience. While hiding, another girl says: “We’ve been here forever. Why isn’t anyone coming?”. It feels that way, which makes it all the more shocking when the end credits roll and tells us the attack lasted 72 minutes. 72 minutes is forever.

After 22 July Norway said “never again”. The country came together, denounced right wing extremism, and promised to love. Its 2018. Its been seven years, and the political climate is unforgiving. I’ve experienced more racism in the last seven years than all the years before. The Norwegian people denounces immigrants, accepts less people into the country than the rest of Europe, and celebrates politicians who are outwardly racist.

This movie may technically be “too soon”, but it serves as a reminder to the Norwegian people how destructive hate can be. Erik Poppe said making the movie at a different time would be “too late”, and on this we agree.

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