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Soothing staging

Reconstructing Utøya. Work in progress.
Regissør: Carl Javér

Reconstructing Utøya is close, brave and warm – if you can only watch one movie about Utøya, it is strongly recommended to wait for this one. 


A Nordic film team has worked with five young people who survived the massacre on Utøya, in an attempt to reconstruct their experiences on 22. July 2011. Together with a group of other young people, they spent two weeks filming scenes in a black room in inner Troms.

The hall in Filmens hus in Oslo is painfully empty for spectators. Only a dozen people have found their way to the work-in-progress meeting with the Swedish team behind the documentary Reconstructing Utøya. Has the saturation point for the retelling already reached? The lack of attendance is embarrassing and embarrassing. Swedish director Carl Javér sits in a chair on stage and presents the "observational documentary" method. Together with his regular producer Fredrik Lange in the production company Vildabomben and Norwegian co-producer John Arvid Berger in Polarfox, he talks about two weeks of filming in a black room at FilmCamp in inner Troms. Five surviving youths participated. Four of them have staged twelve other youth to create their own retellings. They have used white tape stretched across the floor to create the landscape. I'm starting to doubt. Is the concept too absurd for context? Have they picked up the black floor and the white tape from Lars Von Trier's film Dogville – the movie that shows how far human atrocities can go, when the consequences are not there? Are artistic approaches to this delicate problem at all healthy?

The joy and fellowship they were robbed is on the way back.

Before I can ponder more, the team will show clips. The phrase is as promised a black room. A young woman with translucent skin and bright, yet sad eyes appears. She grabs me immediately. The Northern Norwegian dialect is frame salt and is in contrast to the clean look. "Cod and haddock, cod and haddock". The hey call to her Nordlandsgangen is wonderfully life-affirming and proud. She tells that she, along with the other cohabitants, was very much looking forward to the disco dance that was to be later in the evening, but then there was never any dance.

She hits hard and tries a wrench against different ground in the stripped-down movie studio. Listening, looking for the right sound. It involuntarily twitches in her as the harsh metallic smell echoes the silence. Her face is changing. She is back on Utøya, carrying me with her. She talks about the dangerous silence, the shots from which they navigated away. They fled from the sound. But without the shots, it was impossible to know where the perpetrator was.

Generation report. The team talks about how they approached the support group for 22. July survivors of the project, and the young people who themselves contacted and asked to join the film. They were very conscious of not "chasing" the survivors, but let them take the first step. The stories were to come out on the youth's premises. The film team held back during the filming as well, letting the survivors control themselves. In this way, the film becomes the first pure narrative of the generation that was exposed to the terror of the same generation. The hall boils abruptly with questions. One from the cultural school bag somewhere outside Oslo could imagine showing the film to the school students. He wonders if it fits. The team dries up. They are assisted by the Norwegian co-producer from Polarfox. Enthusiastic, they tell of the psychologist who became so engaged that he not only supported the youth for the necessary hours, but insisted on following the whole process. They tell about amounts of gripping material, about a cutting process that takes longer. The small atmosphere from the start has been replaced by a reverent warmth, with thoughtfulness. It seeps out from every step of the film's production. As in the rock, where they want to let one and one story be told from beginning to end, where others are tempted to cross-cut. Now I also realize that the black room has been carefully chosen. That it provides a soothing distance. Perhaps it even has the discussed effect of black holes; that it draws things into it, and then lets it disappear forever.

The documentary is a success, through what the young people have achieved together and for each other.

Present. Javér talks about the importance of "present". That the survivors are resistance fighters by virtue of their insistence on survival. He talks about the power of reconstruction. About one of the survivors who had lined up those who could not escape, and then changed the retelling to all managed to escape. The tears are coming, but they are redeeming. It is not only me who is affected, the young actors, who have made themselves available to them completely. The black room is loaded with what's going on between these and the survivors. Here comes to me the strongest, most authentic accounts of how it was experienced on the day of great sorrow.

A large square is taped to the floor. It represents the lifeboat that took survivors from the island. "We are starting a round trip around the island. So we see. We get a picture of how extensive this actually is because we see patches of color on the island, which are dead people. " The girl who tells, holds back. Around her are the twelve young people who have followed her closely throughout the process. They so want to know, so want to understand. The girl who tells, observes how these deal with her retelling. They are located throughout the room – as boat captain, as survivors. She nods a little. The reconstruction makes sense, fits with the clear images she has in her head. The young people carry the experience for her, share the feelings. "And I remember several of those in the boat crying and looking at the island. And I look at the island and it hurts a lot inside me, but I do not cry. I remember thinking: Where are my feelings? It hurt, but I could not cry. Then I wonder if you can lie a little scattered, some may lie at the water's edge some may lie on land… a little around… yes. " Again she hesitates. Then finally come the tears, those that have been shut down for so long. The young people ring around her. They hug, talk and laugh. Goes out into the woods, lights a fire at night. The flames light up for sharing. The joy and fellowship they were robbed of is on its way back.

The film touches so strongly that even writing this review is difficult.

If you can only watch one movie about Utøya, I highly recommend waiting for this one. Although I only saw clips from the retelling of one of the survivors, it touches that even writing this review is difficult. Regardless of audience support: The documentary is a success, through what the young people have achieved together and for each other.

Ellen Lande
Ellen Lande
Lande is a film writer and director and a regular writer for Ny Tid.

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