“Cin­ema’s mis­sion is to il­lu­mi­nate larger truths”

How di­rec­tor Paul Green­grass looked be­yond the vi­o­lence of Nor­way’s worst ter­ror­ist at­tack to make 22 July

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - John nu­gent

Paul Green­grass never in­tended to make a film about the 22 July 2011 ter­ror­ism at­tacks in nor­way. af­ter com­plet­ing Ja­son Bourne, he ex­pected to make a film about the migration cri­sis in europe. “I thought I was go­ing to make some­thing about the boats coming across the Mediter­ranean,” Green­grass says. Then he read the orig­i­nal court tes­ti­mony and man­i­festo of an­ders Breivik, who killed 77 peo­ple, most of them teenagers.

“I was so struck by how [Breivik’s] opin­ions then had be­come main­stream opin­ions, just six or seven years later,” Green­grass says. “It was re­ally eerie when you read it — all this stuff about elites, and how democ­racy is a sham.” Green­grass re­alised that the event could tell a wider-rang­ing story about the rise of the alt-right move­ment in europe, and be­gan ex­plor­ing the film project that be­came 22 July.

Hav­ing had ex­pe­ri­ence in this ter­ri­tory (Bloody Sun­day, United 93, Cap­tain Phillips), the Bri­tish di­rec­tor’s ap­proach was un­changed, work­ing closely with the fam­i­lies from the start. He found the sur­vivors more open to the project than you might ex­pect. “Peo­ple who are di­rectly af­fected fear their sto­ries be­ing for­got­ten,” he says. “They’re de­ter­mined to find the mean­ing. Why did this man do this? What does it mean that these ideas are out in the world? Far from them be­ing squea­mish, their feel­ings are: ‘We have to con­front this.’”

The de­pic­tion of the vi­o­lence in the film, which sees Breivik in­dis­crim­i­nately gun down un­armed chil­dren, was “dis­cussed end­lessly” with the fam­i­lies. But again, their response was rel­a­tively sur­pris­ing. “On the one hand, they said ‘You mustn’t sani­tise this,’” he re­calls. “They felt I would be do­ing them a dis­ser­vice if I painted a pic­ture of that event that did not con­vey some­thing of what hap­pened. On the other hand, they wanted it de­picted in a re­spect­ful way, that does not al­low peo­ple to iden­tify a par­tic­u­lar per­son or fam­ily mem­ber.” Much of the vi­o­lence, he says, is re­strained — “just sug­ges­tions”.

Cru­cially, the shoot­ings (which only form the first act of the film) are not the fo­cus. “The film is not about the at­tacks,” main­tains Green­grass. “You’ve got to un­der­stand what hap­pened, but the film is about how peo­ple in nor­way fought for democ­racy af­ter the at­tacks. That’s what the theme is: how are we go­ing to deal with the pol­i­tics of divi­sion and hate?”

Green­grass ac­cepts that it’s a some­times har­row­ing watch. “listen, I know it’s pretty tough,” he says. “But I do be­lieve that part of cin­ema’s mis­sion is to hold a mir­ror up to the world, to see what the truths are in­side a mo­ment that il­lu­mi­nate larger truths. I think it’s im­por­tant.”

22 July is on net­flix from 10 oc­to­ber

Top to bot­tom: Di­rec­tor Paul Green­grass; Vil­jar (Jonas Strand Gravli): one of the youth camp mem­bers who gets caught up in the ter­ror­ist at­tack; Strand Gravli gets di­rec­tion from Green­grass on lo­ca­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.