View your saved tickets

DCA Archive

Utoya July 22

On 22 July 2011, the world learned with horror that a far-right extremist had killed 77 teenagers on the small Norwegian island of Utøya. For the survivors (on whose testimony Utøya – July 22 is based), Erik Poppe’s film is essential, not only in allowing people to understand what they experienced, but to stand as a testament to the courage of those who lost their lives.

“Using just one single take, Poppe... focuses us on the struggle for survival.”

The film opens with footage showing a car bomb at the government buildings in Oslo. From then on our only location is Utøya, during the Norwegian Labour Party’s annual youth league summer camp. Kaja (Andrea Berntzen) assures her mother on her cell-phone that “this is the safest place in the world.” But the Oslo bombing is on everyone’s mind – all except Kaja’s younger sister Emilie (Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne), whose indifference causes a row between the siblings. Without warning, there is a bang, like a firecracker, and people come streaming out of the trees. Over the next 72 minutes (the actual duration of Anders Breivik’s assault), the camera stays with Kaja as she crisscrosses the island – from a meeting hall, to the trees, to the campsite, to the shore – looking for sanctuary and her sister.

Using just one single take, Poppe, who never shows the attacker, focuses us on the struggle for survival. Berntzen brilliantly portrays a young woman of great resolve, slowly worn down by what she poignantly sees as her failures of responsibility. Despite the death count, the film is not bloody but instead, using sound and moving camera, is a visceral evocation of how it must feel to be inside an ongoing assault, with all the uncertainty, panic and fear that it creates.