HUGE Disclaimer: This is probably the most harrowing film I have seen in my life. There is gruesome documentation of bomb and shooting injuries, and this article contains some stills from the movie itself that some readers may find distressing.
This film will also touch upon the issue of the far-right movement and white supremacy, so with that in mind, please go out and vote if you can! As an English person looking at America, I know you need all the help you can get. Don’t let the older generation dictate the path your country follows. You are the future.
Also whilst this is a film, it is clear that the portrayal of the antagonist is very close to real life events – and there will, of course, be spoilers for the film 22 July!
Can we be expecting something similar to happen again in the rise of the far-right in, not just Europe, but across the world?
In an attempt to have something playing in the background whilst I completed the reading I have to do for my law seminar, I opened Netflix. I was hoping to watch To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before for the umpteenth time when I was struck with the banner for 22 July.
I hadn’t seen any advertising for the film before and was honestly intrigued by what it would be about – I assumed it would be another end of the world film – but after watching the trailer I discovered that it was instead a retelling of the 2011 attacks carried out by far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. On July 22nd, seven years ago, Breivik detonated a van bomb in Norway’s capital, killing six before going on a mass shooting spree at a Labour summer camp on the island of Utøya, where he murdered sixty-nine for a total of seventy-seven.
I had heard about the case in the news when it occurred, and I knew that he had ended up with the maximum sentence. But I didn’t realize that a film would enable me to feel such hatred for a portrayal of a human being before.
The film opens with Breivik preparing the bombs for his first attack and it is evident that he shows no remorse for the later events. The beginning fifteen minutes cut between Breivik’s preparation and the introduction of Torje and Vijar Hanssen, brothers who are attending the summer camp where Breivik will later wreak havoc. The darkness of the cinematography projects a mood that despite the smiles of friends being reunited at camp, there will be a disaster in the coming moments.
The dovetailing of the scenes is done extremely well to show the reactions of all the people involved in both incidents – the audience is able to see how people are reacting in Oslo to the van bomb but also how quickly the news spreads to the camp on Utøya, with the teenagers unaware that Breivik is on the way to cause a catastrophe.
What is also interesting is how well the director, Paul Greengrass, shows the change in the location of danger; meaning that first Viljar and Torje were worried about the safety of their parents as they were both in the capital close to where the bomb has gone off but soon after their parents are worried for them as they discover that Breivik has embarked on a shooting spree at the camp.
What I found most excruciating about the portrayal of the murders was not the gruesomeness, but the fact that there is not a scintilla of regretfulness from Breivik. The latter enters into a room full of camp attendants, and instead of him feeling pity, he announces that “[they] will die today” and shoots every person in the class.
After the killings, Breivik uses the courtroom to take the opportunity to publicize his views on anti-feminism, no immigration, and the removal of all Muslims from Europe (remind you of anyone?)
The portrayal of Breivik by Anders Danielsen Lie is very well done. The lack of remorse on the actor’s face throughout makes you wonder if people like this can actually exist in the world and disappointed when you realise that they do. Greengrass does an amazing job at the beginning of the film in contrasting the ideals of Viljar, a victim of the shootings in Utøya, and Breivik. Whilst the latter is preparing the bomb and conducting the first attack outside the Labour prime minister’s office, Viljar gets up in front of the room – that will later be filled will dead teenagers – and says that if he were the Prime Minister, he would make sure that everyone has equality. He explains that in his hometown, everyone works side-by-side regardless of nationality. Breivik is carrying out these attacks because of his far-right, xenophobic racist views.
Critics have argued that the film should not have been made at all as it is both authentic and still a raw subject for many Norwegians today. However, it is important to note is that the time before and the killings themselves only take up thirty minutes of the film’s one hundred and forty-four-minute running time. This is because the film is very much concerned with the aftermath and the healing of Norway after the attacks. Vijar who survives despite sustaining injuries to his head, arms and leg while losing multiple fingers and an eye, acts as a symbol of hope in the film that Norway can heal and move on, as the end credits tell us he is studying law in Norway and hopes to work in politics.
The film reflects real life – yes, it does depict the killings, but it dedicated the majority of its message that they could have done more to save more lives Utøya. It was revealed that there was a lapse of nearly twenty minutes when police were waiting for a lifeboat to take them to the island. Breivik was able to buy the bomb components because the Norwegian government was monitoring Muslims and not other citizens such as white supremacists.
With the recent appointment of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazillian President and the bomb packages sent to influential Democrats in America, it seems as if the same ideals of Breivik are becoming more prominent in a world that is already harsh in the treatment of minorities. Seven years ago, the mindset of Breivik shocked and disgusted not just Norway but the world, but it seems now that many people and, even more worryingly, many influential people share the same beliefs, even if they don’t act upon it in the same manner.
Not even a week ago, eleven innocent worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue were killed in the name of Anti-Semitism and recently, news broke of the alleged lynching of Dayne Jones – remember it is actually 2018. Yes, it’s 2018, and things like this are still happening.
For me, this film did a lot more than educating me on the 22 July 2011, but it also left me asking if we should be expecting something similar to happen again in a rise of the far-right, not only in Europe but also across the world. And if it does, will it be wiped under the carpet among the other tragedies against minorities, or will it make us wake up to the rise of a movement that seems to have a complete disregard for the lives it is ruining?
Featured Image via 22 July 2011 on Netflix