Erik Poppe’s U-July 22, playing in Competition at the Berlin Film Festival, tells the story of 500 youths who were attacked by terrorist Anders Behring Breivik at a Norwegian summer camp in 2011.
Despite the extremely sensitive subject matter, the project is not exploitative according to Ingrid Endrerud, a real-life survivor from the massacre.
Talking at a press conference during the Berlinale, she said: “The core is to tell the story because it has been impossible to tell. To capture and show this was right – [extremism] is hate in the purest form, and we have to stand against it. This film is historical, and is important to tell.”
Lead actress Andrea Berntzen, who plays fictional character ‘Kaja’ in the film, added that she was initially sceptical of the film.
“When I first heard about this movie, I was critical. Like many others in my generation, some thought this story was too soon to tell. We spoke about it – my friends – but knowing the focus was on the youths, not the man behind this, was important to me.”
The film’s producer Stein B. Kvae said: “It’s been seven years (following the event on July 22, 2011). That is quite a bit of time, but for those who had loved ones involved, we understand it feels like it was yesterday.”
“This is a part of the healing process. We have had screenings for the last few weeks, inviting parents and survivors, so they could prepare to see what is coming up,” added director Poppe, whose credits include The King’s Choice.
“People were looking around Europe – looking at neo-fascism growing day by day – we need to remember what took place, what right wing extremism looks like. I needed to go into this material, to put that story into a film.”
“Also, knowing there was going to be no editing of the footage, no music, made it a clear choice for me to do this. If we were to make this movie, this would be the correct way to do it.”
Unique shooting style
The film’s 72 minutes run-time was shot in one take each day for five days with a small crew including the DoP Martin Otterbeck, a gaffer and a boom operator.
“It was only possible for one take [per day], everyone was exhausted,” said Poppe, who added that the at the end of each day the cast and crew needed to calm down and discuss what they had been through. Psychologists were also on set.
“We tried to film this as accurately as we could, with the same amount of shots fired in the locations where [the attacker] would have been. This was very emotional for all of us,” said Poppe.