‘Anders Breivik’s world view is spreading’
Thorbjørn Harr was holding his one-day-old daughter when the wounded began to arrive. The Norwegian actor and his wife were in the maternity ward at Oslo University Hospital, having become parents for the third time on Thursday July 21 2011. The following evening, they noticed a commotion outside – helicopters coming in to land, one after the other, and casualties being hurriedly stretchered inside. These were the teenage victims of Anders Behring Breivik, the far-Right terrorist who had opened fire at a summer camp on the island of Utøya earlier that day, after detonating a car bomb in Oslo’s political quarter. A total of 77 people were killed in the attacks; more than 300 others were injured. “We were there with a new life while other kids’ lives were ending,” Harr recalls. “But a lot of Norwegians have stories like that.” In fact, a nationwide poll found that one in four of the country’s five million inhabitants personally knew someone who had been affected by the attacks. “It left a deep scar in Norway,” Harr goes on. “But what happened was not a result of uniquely Norwegian problems. That’s why this story should be told to the world.”
Seven years later, Harr is helping to do just that. He is one of the cast members of 22 July, a new film from Paul Greengrass that recreates Breivik’s attacks, the subsequent rescue effort, and Norway’s long and arduous national coming-to-terms. The 63-year-old director describes the film as “Norway’s fight for her democracy,” in which home-grown extremism was countered with an unswerving dedication to democratic due process. (Breivik was eventually found sane and guilty by the Oslo District Court, and is currently serving a 21-year sentence.) Beforehand, the idea that a 32-year-old middle-class suburbanite raised in the traditionally liberal Scandinavian nation could be capable of such a crime had been unthinkable among the overwhelming majority of Breivik’s countrymen. Hence the title of the nonfiction book by Åsne Seierstad from which the film was adapted: One of Us.
I meet Greengrass and his cast in Venice, shortly before the premiere of 22 July at the city’s film festival. During conversation it comes out that the one-in-four ratio holds exactly for the actors present: Seda Witt was Facebook friends with the young woman she portrays, a survivor who lost her older sister in the Utøya shooting, while the character played by
Youngsters run for cover in July 22 by Paul Greengrass, below