Film follows the Utøya terror

Breivik says the greeting was from Norse UtøyaSkien. Breivik ....greeting was from Norse.Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix

Film follows the Utøya terror minute by minute

Director Erik Poppe says he has done everything to make the film about the terrorist attack on Utøya to be realistic, but not a speculative entertainment movie.


Together with the actors, Poppe presented the film «Utøya July 22nd» at a press conference Wednesday. The film is the first about the brutal assault on Utøya on July 22, 2011. Among the survivors and those left behind, the views have been very divided about the project, and many believe the movie is coming too soon.

69 people, most of them youths, were killed in Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorist attack against the AUF summer camp on the island.

Poppe says he has worked closely with the affected people and listened their views, to see if they should be taken into account.

– Many have been afraid that it would be a pure entertainment movie, and that it is certainly not. Others have been clear that the film should not be wrapped up as a “faith, hope, and love story.” We have not done that either. – Making something fictitious out of this that did not take care of the inconceivable cruelty that it actually was would be completely wrong, Poppe tells NTB.

Young and unknown actors

The film has been chosen for the main program during the prestigious Berlin Film Festival and will be featured there for the first time on Monday next week. The Norwegian premiere is on March 9th.

In the first part of the film, viewers become familiar with carefree youngsters at the camp, who flirt, fool around and are engaged in politics. Then Breivik arrives, and the summer camp turns into a nightmare. For the rest of the film’s 72 minutes – just as long as the real terrorist attack lasted – the movie follows the youth’s attempted escapes and death throes. The film’s main character is 19-year-old Kaja who desperately is looking for her little sister during the attack. The role is played by Andrea Berntzen from Oslo. During the press conference she and the 13 other young main actors were presented. All young and unknown faces – gathered from all over the country – just the way the people at the summer camp were. Poppe will not inform who plays Anders Behring Breivik.

Berntzen says she was 13-14 years old when the attack occurred in 2011 and that she does not remember so much from the day itself, except that she was afraid.

– It’s only in recent years that I’ve started to reflect much more about the event and how bad it was. I am 19 years now and that was the average age of those who were present on the island that day. – I have every opportunity in front of me, and it makes a great impression to know that young people like me were deprived of the opportunity to live, Berntzen says.

The young actors aged 15 to 21 has access to psychologists and other support staff during recording, and each recording day was ended with conversations and debriefing.

Filmed with single recordings

The recording was made during five days in September, and every single day the entire recordings was filmed in one single shot.

– The actors were told they would enter into a bubble and stay there for the next 90 minutes. It has been demanding for the actors, says Poppe, praising the young actors’ efforts.

The film has only fictional characters, but is based on the sum of survivors’ reports of what happened on the island. The filmmakers have conducted a series of depth interviews with survivors, and several of them have acted as consultants for the film.

– We think it was ethically more correct to tell a fictional story. We wanted to relate the story without a mother or father looking for if it’s their son or daughter’s story that is told, says the director.

– Because it’s not someone’s specific stories, it can be be the story of all, says Poppe.

Poppe says his goal with the movie is to awaken our collective memory of what actually happened July 22nd and bring the focus back to those who were the real victims. He believes that this is something society has largely lost focus of over the years.

Facts about upcoming films on the Utøya Terror

Three films and a television series about the terrorist attack on Utøya July 22, 2011 are expected in 2018 and 2019:

  • “Utøya July 22th”, drama film by Erik Poppe. Norwegian premiere March 9, 2018. Script written by Siv Rajendram Eliassen and Anna Bache-Wiig. All the stories are fictional, but based on the survivors’ stories. The film follows the main character Kaja (18) who is looking for her little sister during the attack. The film is part of main program at the Berlin International Film Festival.”Norway”, drama film by British director Paul Greengrass. Expected to premiere in the spring of 2018. Netflix has secured the rights. The film is based on the author Åsne Seierstad’s book “One of us”. The film follows three interwoven stories – about survivors who try to rebuild their lives, about Norway’s political leadership who tries to run the country through the crisis and on the lawyers of the terrorist. Features Anders Danielsen Lie in the role of the terrorist.
  • “Reconstructing Utøya”, documentary film by Swedish director Carl Javér. Expected to premiere in the autumn of 2018. The film tells the stories of five young people who survived the massacre on Utøya. Through reconstruction in the studio and using a group of young actors, the survivors will demonstrate how they managed to survive.
  • “22. July”, drama series directed by Sara Johansen and Pål Sletaune. expected to be aired on NRK in the autumn of 2019. The drama series will deal with people who, through their work were affected by the terror. Six episodes are scheduled.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today