The factual drama that had already caused quite a stir in advance UTØYA JULY 22nd is now coming to USA cinemas and once again raises the question: Does art have to be allowed to do everything? We reveal how we feel about this question in our review.
The Plot Summary
18-year-old Kaja (Andrea Berntzen) spends a few exuberant vacation days with her younger sister Emilie at a summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya. There is an argument between the sisters and Kaja goes to the planned barbecue alone. The young people are actively discussing current political developments when suddenly shots are fired. Frightened, Kaja and the others seek shelter in the forest. Her thoughts are racing. What is happening around them? Who should shoot them? No hiding place seems safe. But the hope of rescue remains. And Kaja does everything she can to find Emilie. While the shots won’t stop.
Movie explanation of the ending
On July 22, 2011, the right-wing extremist and Islamophobic mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people. The crime, which mainly took place in a youth camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya, as well as the upcoming court case dominated international headlines for weeks and traumatized the victims and their relatives for their entire lives. That the compatriot and filmmaker Erik Poppe (“The King’s Choice – Attack on Norway”) only six years later was already dealing with the filmic treatment of the tragedy, which is now actually happening in 2018, is brave, but perhaps also necessary. Making such a terrible crime taboo only unnecessarily counteracts the processing that is actually so necessary. At the same time, it also depends on the filmmaker’s intention. Erik Poppe stated in advance that he wanted to direct his film in such a way that one could experience the suffering of the victims one-to-one; because words are not even able to describe it. This much can be said in the following lines: That’s exactly what Poppe managed to do. But the technical sophistication of “Utøya July 22nd” cannot hide the fact that the survival drama, staged with elements of horror and action films, is full of bitter cynicism on the one hand and, on the other hand, the film has nothing more to offer than just that the feeling of a catastrophe. Both are disgusting.
Director Erik Poppe wants to express compassion with his film. That’s hard to believe.
You have to look at “Utøya July 22nd” from at least two different perspectives. In one of them, Erik Poppe’s work is beyond any doubt: the directorial one. Using various audiovisual means, Poppe manages to catapult the viewer directly into the action. In the guise of a one-take (i.e. without visible cuts), from the first-person perspective, without music (but with an even more intense soundtrack) or other stylistic exaggerations, those responsible present pure survival thrill; It’s as if “Utøya July 22nd” wasn’t a production, but rather original recordings of the tragic event. Cameraman Martin Otterbeck ducks again and again (“Play”) away or films the event from unfavorable perspectives in order to suggest to the viewer a feeling of helplessness. The audience never sees everything and is sometimes only dependent on what they hear in the distance or what bits of words are shouted at them by the supporting characters. This is all undoubtedly very effective. When the bullets feel like they’re hitting right next to you, you’ll inevitably duck and duck again and again until you actually feel like you can sense the panic the victims experienced shortly before their death. The fact that Poppe achieves this with the help of a film is without a doubt impressive. But there is also the second level, the narrative level, which simply does not allow you to watch a film like “Utøya July 22nd” with a clear conscience.
Even when drawing the character of the fictional main character Kaja, Poppe moves away from the noble intention of simply “showing what it was like”. The script by Siv Rajendram Eliassen and Anna Bache-Wiig (“Lifjord – The Acquittal”) turns the young woman, undoubtedly intensely embodied by newcomer Andrea Berntzen, into an almost otherworldly heroine, only to sacrifice her in the final act to a crude twist that specifically relies on the surprise effect. This calculated shock effect is symptomatic of how much “Utøya July 22nd” in its entirety aims to actively shock the viewer; not through the events themselves, but through the gimmicky staging. Erik Poppe sometimes even works with jump-scare-like motifs, stirring up disgust through targeted blood wounds or playing directly with the viewer’s expectations in order to subvert them in the next moment for a quick shock. These are all things that a director and screenwriter (Poppe conceived the story himself) would be given credit for in other projects. But in the case of “Utøya July 22nd”, all of this is not only out of place, Poppe is also vehemently contradicting himself. And so by buying a cinema ticket you may be able to understand in a questionable way how you might experience such a rampage Experienced firsthand, but Poppe doesn’t seem to be enough and enriches the scenery with genre-typical motifs in order to take the whole thing – if anything, then – to an unpleasantly dramatic extreme.
Andrea Berntzen plays the main role of Kaja with a lot of self-sacrifice.
Now the legitimate question arises as to how “Utøya July 22nd” differs from other dramas and disaster films that are also based on a true tragic event. Why don’t you feel strange when Christopher Nolan captures the horrors of war from three different perspectives (in 2017 with “Dunkirk”) or when the tragedy surrounding the sinking of the “Titanic” has to give way to an expansive romantic melodrama? In contrast to the two examples mentioned, which have completely different ambitions either in terms of staging or narrative, Erik Poppe in “Utøya July 22nd” subordinates everything to the re-enactment of the rampage and thereby creates something like a kind of cinematic simulator, which is particularly important in view of the The fact that this was a recent act of violence raises the question of whether it is permissible to stir up such superficial emotions on the backs of the 77 victims. Using small details, Erik Poppe desperately tries to draw attention to the fact that he has the appropriate respect for them; for example, when he doesn’t mention the name of the assassin himself in the final text overlay, which is absolutely pointless considering Behring Breivik’s tragic fame; especially since almost every time and location-based detail of the screen events was retained. But ultimately “Utøya July 22nd” is nothing more than cinematic disaster tourism. To look at something so macabre with a clear conscience is, at least for us, very reluctant.
Conclusion: As intense as “Utøya July 22nd” presents itself from a craftsmanship perspective, the re-enactment of the terrorist attack on the Norwegian island is an irreverent work that Erik Poppe may have started with noble intentions, but must have lost them at some point.
“Utøya July 22nd” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from September 20th.