Watching Reconstructing Utoya at the Berlinale

During our recent trip to Berlin, I watched “Rekonstruksjon Utoya” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), which was screened as part of the Berlinale Film Festival. This film is honestly one of the best I have ever seen. I went into this film knowing nothing about what the style of the film was going to be, nor the subject matter, all I knew was the name. It was nothing like what I had expected it to be.

“Rekonstruksjon Utoya” (English translation: “Reconstructing Utoya”) is a film directed by Carl Javier depicting a series of workshops lead by four survivors of the massacre of Utoya in 2011. Within these workshops each survivor explains their experience of the attack to the young actors who are volunteering to re-enact the events. The majority of the film is shot in a large, empty TV studio where the survivors had mapped out the environment of where they were at the time of the attack.

For me, this simplistic approach to the subject matter was more impactful then many blockbuster films and I’m not quite sure how to explain why. I think it is the emotion of the survivors, and the acting skills of the cast that make you feel as though you are there with them, and the raw audio helps immerse you in the story even more. During one of the workshops, an actor simply had to sit on the edge of the room with a ladder and a metal tool, recreating the sounds of the gunshots as the survivors remembered them. These aren’t glorified “bang” noises, with big muzzle flashes and SFX, the audio is visceral, loud, eerie and realistic as if there was a gun being shot in the room with them, and impact the audience watching the film itself.

The film shows the audience the raw emotion from the survivors as the volunteers re-enact the most horrific event of their life with impeccable accuracy. This helps the audience connect with the characters in the film more and have a stronger emotional effect on audience.

Overall this was a great way to end our trip to Berlin, and I would also consider this film as one of my favourite films to date, along side Clio Barnard’s “Dark River”.

Written by Daniel Walker