Seven years ago on 22 July, more than 500 teenagers at a left-wing political summer camp on a small island outside Oslo, Norway, were targeted by armed right-wing extremist Anders Breivik; an attack that ultimately left 69 people, most of them children, dead.
A moving, though harrowing real-time recreation of this horrific event from the victims’ perspectives, Norwegian director Erik Poppe’s Utøya-July 22 premiered at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival to excellent reviews and drew praise from survivors as a painful but necessary examination of the dangers of far-right extremism and domestic terrorism within Europe.
The film centres around 18-year-old Kaja (Andrea Berntzen) and starts as she and her friends, shocked by news of the initial bombing in Oslo, reassure their relatives that they are far away from the incident. But their sense of safety is shattered when shots are heard. As the threat grows closer, the camera follows Kaja as minute by minute, she tries desperately to survive.
Filmed on the island of Utøya in a single take, the film’s commitment to veracity includes even the precise number of shots the killer fired during those fatal 72 minutes. Director Poppe worked closely with several survivors as advisors, resulting in both an earnest and heartfelt tribute to the courage of the young victims and a compelling depiction of the horror and surreality of sudden, inexplicable violence.
Please be aware: this film contains vivid depictions of real-life violence to children, and viewers may find it upsetting.