Utoya's attack: 72 minutes full of tension

In 2011, Anders Breivik disguised himself as a police officer and began shooting young people who were at a Labor Party camp on the island. With this movie, we put ourselves in the perspective of one of the young women affected

Secretary General of NATO and Norway's former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg attends a memorial ceremony on the anniversary of 2011 Norway attacks, at Utoya Island, Norway.

Secretary-General of NATO and Norway's former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg attends a memorial ceremony on the anniversary of 2011 Norway attacks, at Utoya Island, Norway, July 22, 2019. NTB Scanpix/Terje Bendiksby via REUTERS

LatinAmerican Post | Juan Gabriel Bocanegra

Listen to this article


July 22, 2011, Norway. On the morning of that same day, there was an explosion in the Oslo government district that had no clues as to who or who the perpetrators had been. This is the only thing that young teenagers who are on Utoya, an island located 40 km from the Norwegian capital, know. Initially, the concern is in the air of some teenagers - there is a young woman whose parents work there, another of Middle Eastern origin hopes that it has not been a terrorist attack by Alqaeda, worried about enduring more racism - and everyone is expecting of the news.

Leer en español: Atentado Utoya: 72 minutos de tensión

And these arrive, but in the body of the man who had planned the previous attack and was now there to shoot everyone. His name is Anders Breivik, a sympathizer of the extreme right who decided to eliminate, as if he were in a war, those who were on a different ideological side.

With a simple search on the Internet, we all know the result: 77 dead, almost 100 injured and many more with great psychological traumas. It was a massacre and the numbers guarantee it. However, Utøya: July 22 by Eric Poppe, a former war photographer, does not try to show us the consequences, but the development of the moment, the real-time of a massacre.

The camera follows Kaja (Andrea Berntzen), a young woman who dreams of being a member of Parliament and has a good empathy with others while looking for her sister Emilie, with whom she had argued before the shooting began. As a spectator, the tension is constant, since the camera does not move away from her at any point. From the first minutes, we are always with her: when she runs, when she is calling her mother when she finds others injured when she sings trying to calm down.

It is a sequence of 72 minutes, the real-time that the attack lasted; It is 72 minutes, which seem to extend at the points where she decides to hide or shorten when she runs to the rhythm of the sound of the shots is constant, to put yourself in the victim's perspective.

When Kaja is introduced to the viewer, she looks at the camera and says "You'll never understand. Just listen to me, ok?", and then we realize that he is talking to his mother. That slight rupture of the fourth wall provides the key to reading the film. She is not going to reflect, but to become her, to feel what she is. With the resource of the camera in hand and without cuts, Poppe achieves his mission.

We witness the fear of the gunshots, the anguish of not finding her sister, the empathy when she is injured on the floor or the apathy of others who do not want her to occupy more space in the hiding place. Even so, does this mean that we can better understand the massacre, the wound that formed in Norwegian society?

You may be interested: Chernobyl: the brilliant sign that HBO is more than Game of Thrones

In the end, it is clarified that all the characters are fictional, although they have been based on the testimonies of the survivors. It is a horror movie, it works from identifiable narrative tensions and its cinematographic resources are explicit. Although it is based on real events, its language is fiction.

This does not make it a police compilation of testimonies, from each of the survivors, a journal of memories of the trauma he left in them. Rather, it seeks to capture a sense of that violence, from a part of the wound. Before reflecting, we propose an identification with pain, the creation of empathy.

Utøya: July 22 thus becomes an emergency call, in a visceral commemorative act of what that event means in Norway and in the rest of Europe, which currently has growing right-wing nationalist parties. It transmits to us, without rest, what can be felt when hate takes the streets. It is not a pleasant experience, but it is necessary to become aware of the danger.