'22 July' Review: Paul Greengrass Confronts Norway's Darkest Day With a Glimmer of Hope â" Venice
The title is both a warning and a memorial. ââ might not carry as much visceral weight among American viewers as âUnited 93,â but it certainly will in Norway. Thatâs the date, just over seven years ago, when Anders Behring Breivik killed eight people in a van explosion targeting Osloâs city center before gunning down 69 more at a summer camp on the nearby island of UtÃ¸ya. If that doesnât sound like fun subject matter for a film, it isnât â" but has a careful approach that gives voice to those who permanently lost their own.
Both a continuation of and departure from the writer-directorâs signature aesthetic, the filmmakerâs latest docudrama is a movie in which Europeans speak accented English rather than their native tongue and speechify in a way their real-world counterparts likely did not. Beyond those minor transgressions, â 22 Julyâ proves an immersive look at a kind of violence that threatens to become common; Greengrass even foregoes the controversial shaky cam in favor of steadier compositions and longer takes.
, so heartbreakingly good in Joachim Trierâs âOslo, August 31st,â is at his dead-eyed best as the killer in question. With a chinstrap beard and delusions of grandeur, heâs a self-styled commander in a war against what he calls âenforced multiculturalismâ and the dissolution of European identity. He wouldnât be out of place at certain rallies or marches here in the United States, but Greengrass doesnât go out of his way to link this tragedy to our current political climate; the connection is clear on its own.
The massacre itself is mercifully brief, taking place largely in real time over 20 or so of the filmâs 143 minutes. Greengrass doesnât belabor the point or linger on the violence; nor does he abstract it, as Gus Van Sant did in âElephant.â
Itâs never gratuitous, but at times it feels more like a for-its-own-sake reenactment than a necessary contribution toward our collective understanding. Greengrass, whose kinetic approach has long privileged you-are-there immediacy above all else, is so laser-focused on the what that, for the filmâs first half, he doesnât delve into the why.
The film finds something of a protagonist in Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravli), a teenager who survives being shot in the head and whose recovery accounts for much of the second half. In that way â22 Julyâ is ultimately as akin to something like âStrongerâ as it is to Greengrassâ own âUnited 93,â expanding its focus beyond the attack to look at the physical, emotional, and national aftermath of a singular tragedy.
Though deeply felt and inspiring, this dynamic is ultimately less compelling than that of Geir Lippestad (Jon Ãigarden), the attorney who feels duty-bound to represent Breivik to the best of his abilities but who clearly â" and silently â" detests his client. In a sense, he almost represents Greengrassâ vision of Norway in microcosm: tolerant, kind, and resolutely against the likes of Breivik. (âI feel I have lost my soul in this case,â the real Lippestad said prior to the trial. âI hope to get it back once itâs over â" and that it will be in the same condition as before.â)
A country of unparalleled beauty that consistently ranks among the most peaceful in the world, the Scandinavian nation has birthed its fair share of alienated sons whose outbursts of public violence have changed its face (see also the black-metal scandals of the early â90s, which are chronicled in the upcoming âLords of Chaosâ). âHeâs kind of right, though, isnât he?â Breivikâs mother says to Lippestad after refusing to testify on her sonâs behalf in one of the filmâs most telling scenes. âThe way the countryâs going, itâs not like it used to be.â â22 Julyâ doesnât hide its political underpinnings, but then, neither did Breivik â" his 1,500 page manifesto, which he emailed to news outlets shortly before his killing spree, railed against the âcultural suicideâ represented by immigration and multiculturalism.
Though full of anger and grief, the film is more than just a screed. Greengrassâ docu-real aesthetic doesnât allow for grandiosity even when he gives in to more heavy-handed impulses. Heâs on a soapbox at times, but his message is worth hearing.
â22 Julyâ world premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Netflix will release it on October 10.
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.Source: Google News Norway | Netizen 24 Norway