22 July

22 July 2011. Anders Behring Breivik triggered a car bomb in the government district of Oslo that killed 8 and injured 209. Two hours later he had ferried over to the island of Utoya where a summer cap for the youth division of the Labour Party was held. You likely heard about it on the news, at the very least. Breivik was dressed in a police uniform and armed to the teeth. He opened fire on the group of teenagers and killed 69 more, injuring another 110. The kids were like sitting ducks, and Breivik shot them one by one for the political affiliations of their parents.

The film, by Paul Greengrass, is difficult to watch, especially the beginning, which recreates the attack. Later it focuses on the survivors, and on the court case that wouldMV5BM2RkYThlMDQtZDZlMi00ZGVhLThiYWYtZWJlNzQ4YmQ2M2QzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDA5NjIzMg@@._V1_ keep Norway rapt. Breivik, who orchestrated the attacks to protest immigration and other stupidly racist, extremist right-wing bullshit, claimed insanity in order to avoid prison. But he also desperately wanted to stay in control of the trial, demanding the prime minister be called as a witness, and insisting that he have the opportunity to address the court to spout more of his hate, and so after “playing a role” for court-appointed psychiatrists, he decided to retract and change his plea.

As you can imagine, with 1 in 4 Norwegians in some way affected by these attacks, the whole country was fraught. The lawyers tasked with defending him were targeted themselves. But the movie’s beating heart is one kid, a survivor shot 5 times, who finds the courage to stand up and face his worst nightmare in court. He doesn’t want to let Breivik see his vulnerability, but feels the weight of all the voices who cannot speak for themselves.

It’s a moving film, of course. I said before that the first part was particularly difficult to watch, but for me, Breivik’s cold, rational, hateful testimony in court performed by Anders Danielsen Lie was even harder. Film has more or less desensitized us to horrific violence, but nothing can prepare you for looking into the eyes of a person we know exists, who really carries this hate in his chest in the cavity where a heart usually resides. That’s the tough part: reconciling ourselves with the fact that this villain has walked among us.

Thankfully, a thoughtful and humble performance by Jonas Strand Gravli balances this out. He is not just the spokesperson for the victims; he’s a stand-in for the horrified audience as well. Director Paul Greengrass has made these sorts of films his niche lately (Captain Phillips, United 93) and it’s a god-awful corner to have painted himself into, but I must admit he’s got it well sorted, but the movie’s attempt at dividing up the story gives it a sense of imbalance. It sputters a bit in the middle when it doesn’t quite know which movie it is. But it’s worth the watch. It’s an act of remembrance.

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10 thoughts on “22 July

  1. orcaflotta

    “Breivik shot them one by one for the political affiliations of their parents.”
    In Europe/Scandinavia particularly the younglings of working class families have a strong political ideology already in early teenage years, Jay. As you’ve mentioned yourself, it was the summer camp of the labour party’s Youth Division. We’re far more self-determined than Northern American teenagers and you can’t say they were shot for political affiliations of their parents. I joined a socialist youth organisation when I was 13 y/o. My parents knew about it but they wren’t affiliated with it in no way. They were boring Social Democrats, much too soft weaklings for my more radical taste. So if anyone would have shot me, it would have been on me, not because my totallly insignificant elders were also kinda social.

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  2. ninvoid99

    I thought about seeing it because it’s Paul Greengrass and it’s based on a real event but wow, he fucked it up. OK, won’t go see it. I’m one of those who don’t have nor use Netflix. Thank you very much.

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  3. Christopher

    I remember all too well the news about this coming in almost as it was happening which still reminds me of how the internet has changed our lives. And I remember how the right in the US seized on the story immediately in spite of, or perhaps because of, Breivik’s views, blaming socialism, same-sex marriage, gun control–practically everything except Breivik himself.
    And films like this always make me a little uncomfortable because they do make the perpetrator of a crime a star, even if that’s not the intent, but at least it sounds like Greengrass places the most emphasis on the victims.

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  4. J.

    I spotted this on Netflix last night – watched the trailer thing, thought it looked quite good and added it to the list without paying much attention, so didn’t realise it was Greengrass… he’s making quite the habit of making flicks based on pretty horrific events, eh? Not that that’s a bad thing… but it’s not ideal if losing focus and not really knowing what he’s trying to say with the flick.

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  5. Willow Croft

    Not to upstage the film, or your review, but things have gotten so ridiculous and frightening that there is now one of these kinds of individuals that just happens to be the president of an entire country. Yes, I’m talking about you, Donald Trump.

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  6. Harlon

    I was concerned when I heard this movie was being made – I was afraid it could fall into a number of traps such as exploitation, or blame – I read a great book about the event called “One Of Us” by by Åsne Seierstad, it’s a great sociological explanation of what happened and focused on the victims. It was a hard read, and I imagine this will be a hard movie, but I agree, it’s also a great act of remembrance.
    Cheers, Harlon

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