As the second film about the gruesome Utøya assassination attempt, “Bourne” director Paul Greengrass presents the drama 22ND OF JULY and tells in a conventional, mostly coherent way about something that you don’t even know how to tell. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
On July 22, 2011, 77 people were killed in a car bomb in Oslo and the subsequent massacre at a youth organization’s holiday camp on the island of Utøya by the right-wing extremist Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lee). The perpetrator is arrested immediately after the events and has to answer in court for what he did. He insists on full guilt and wants to convince those around him of his ideology during the trial. While the whole of Norway looks on in disbelief at the negotiations, the seriously injured Viljar (Jonas Strand Gravil) fights his way back to life. His goal: to look into the eyes of the man who not only killed a large number of his friends, but also left him forever scarred…
Movie explanation of the ending
Only a few months ago the highly controversial film experiment “Utøya July 22nd” was released in this country. In the Norwegian production, director Erik Poppe depicts the rampage of the right-wing extremist assassin Anders Behring Breivik and resorts to all sorts of outrageous staging devices for the ultimate “in the middle of it instead of just there” experience. Both on a twist to deliberately pull the rug out from under the feet of the viewer, who has already been psychologically involved for a long time, as well as on exaggerated emotionalization and suspense mechanisms that one would actually expect from a horror film. The critics appeared divided. At this point we put ourselves in the camp that had absolutely nothing to gain from the film apart from its outstanding technical production and continue to believe that Poppe, despite all his noble intentions, always puts the thrill (whether consciously or subconsciously) in the foreground . Piety looks different! However, it is not just Poppe who has to face the question of this piety, but now also Paul Greengrass (“Jason Bourne”), which, parallel to its European colleague, is producing a Netflix production entitled “22. July”. Greengrass’ approach to dealing with the horrific events is more conventional, but no less contentious. Because while Poppe turned the perpetrator Breivik into a boogeyman by… not After consistently insisting on not showing him, Greengrass gives him a whole half of the film. This is also questionable at times, but Greengrass takes the right approach and juxtaposes the sober view of the crazy killer with the omnipresent anxiety on the part of the victim.
The young people flee from the perpetrator, who is shooting wildly on the island of Utøya.
Is it right to deal extensively with a person who wanted to provoke exactly that by murdering dozens of young people? To even have an actor play him in a film about his terrible act and thereby give him a second time the same attention that he already received in the media and at the latest in court when he presented his obscure theses? In “22. July”, Paul Greengrass deals with this question very openly and makes no secret of the fact that he himself is not entirely sure of the answer to it – that he was basically like everyone else who was involved in the case at the time. In one scene, he even allows a dialogue to take place on the sidelines of the trial in which two observers describe the hall built specifically for this trial as exactly what Breivik wanted: a stage. Yes, by focusing on him and his statements, Greengrass ultimately gives him one too. But perhaps this is the only way to take away his status as a godlike figure who decides the value of life for individual groups of people. And so Greengrass presents Anders Behring Breivik just like any other criminal, depicting what happened before, during and after the attack, without any exaggeration. From a brief insight into Breivik’s preparations to a few moments on the island of Utoya, which he haunts, to the questioning and the subsequent trial, he lets the audience become a sober observer. The only reasons for Breivik’s actions are provided by his statements themselves – and Greengrass neither works towards answers nor uses careless psychologization. Knowing full well that the former would achieve nothing and that the latter would inevitably involve an explanation, perhaps even some form of apology.
While Paul Greengrass maintains such a great emotional distance from Anders Behring Breivik that at times one even gets the impression that he breaks off early at particularly interesting points so as not to penetrate too deeply into his dark soul, he takes much more time for it to dissect the consequences for the victims. At first he limits himself to the bare essentials: disorientation on the island, the shock afterwards and finally the aftermath, which he tells based on an individual fate. Viljar, who was seriously wounded by several bullets, is not only blind in one eye since the attack and has to learn to walk again due to brain injuries, he has also lost many of his friends and gets into conflicts with his brother, who has been given preferential treatment over Viljar ever since. As if Greengrass wanted to emphasize that all the compassion and attention should be on the victims, the director unfortunately also resorts to some well-worn motifs. In any case, the filmmaker, who is experienced in similar terrain through films like “Flight 93”, “Bloody Sunday” and “Captain Philips”, thinks too “cinematically” in some places; Here and there he subordinates the authenticity of the dramaturgy, for example when Viljar learns to walk again without aids just in time to testify in court, or when his appearance in the trial is more like a speech from a Hollywood film than the words of a serious one A stroke of fate traumatized young people. In return, Greengrass keeps it pleasantly brief in some places: when Viljar’s parents find out in the hospital that their son is still alive, the filmmaker saves long, tearful shots of the family reunion and quickly fades to black.
In court, Viljar (Jonas Strand Gravil) has to look the perpetrator in the eye.
As different as the staging approaches of the two narrative focuses are, the strong acting is uniform. It may sound a little strange, but the Norwegian-born Anders Danielsen Lee (“The Night Eats The World”) succeeds in embodying Anders Behring Breivik in a strong performance without turning him into a comprehensible personality. We see a man precisely preparing his plan and later routinely reciting his manifesto, in whose motives, psychological background and character no one shows any interest. And that’s exactly a good thing! Breivik remains an executing individual throughout the entire 143 minutes. This also means that the manner in which he tells the story is capable of fascinating; another one of those details that Greengrass has two characters in the film address, as if he doesn’t know how else to deal with it, so he simply expresses his doubts directly. The Anders Behring Breivik in the film has a charisma; But it is not based on an emotional fascination, but rather, if at all, on an intellectual one. And so we hear him talk about the world in a perfidious way, as do certain parties across Europe in a (only slightly) toned down form, while Viljar, whom Jonas Strand Gravil embodies in both a fragile and suitably resolute manner, as a representative Victims and the whole of Norway should not offer counterarguments (you don’t talk to right-wing extremists!), but rather let their love and belief in peaceful coexistence speak for themselves. Greengrass expresses this too – perhaps a little too obviously. But perhaps this is ultimately the only language that can be understood multiculturally.
Conclusion: Paul Greengrass shows no false shyness and takes the right directorial approach to respectfully deal with the catastrophe on the island of Utøya. Nevertheless, his film stumbles every now and then, which is mainly due to the fact that he sometimes abandons his sobriety when looking emotionally at the victims to the point that the whole thing simply seems “too cinematic”.
“22. July” can now be seen on the streaming portal Netflix.