Fact of the Fiction

Written by Shubhra Gupta | Published: February 20, 2018 11:49 pm A still from Erik Poppe’s Utoya22.juli.

What are the chances that you get, back to back, two films which expand and stretch the definition of a ‘documentary’? That’s serendipity of a kind you can find only at a film festival. Utoya22.juli (U: July 22) by Erik Poppe is a 72-minute recreation of a black day in Norway on July 22, 2011. A bomb goes off in Oslo, killing eight people. The same day, within a few hours, gunshots are heard by 500 young people at a summer camp on the island of Utoya, just off Oslo. Incoherent reports via cell phones alert them that something untoward has occurred, and then just as suddenly, they are all on the run, because there’s someone out there, with a booming gun, getting closer with each terrifying moment.

The film gives us one character who is the most visible. Nineteen-year-old Kaja is established as responsible, mature, empathetic within a few minutes of the opening. We see her trying to persuade her younger sister, who appears to be somewhat of a self-obsessed brat, to go to the barbeque which everyone is most excited about. The sister insists on staying back in their tent; Kaja takes off with some of her mates. They are readying for a good time, when everything comes to a panicky halt, and then we follow Kaja’s gaze as she tries to make sense of what’s going on. As do we.

Utoya22.juli is a docu-feature, and you can see the director being careful to state, in the end credits, that the events shown in the film are based on the recollections of the survivors: this is the kind of film which gives us both — a strong sense of realism and frees the director to use her imagination. Because memory is a tricky thing; sometimes, in casting back, there is more, other times less than what actually happened. 3 Tage in Quiberon (3 Days In Quiberon) is based on the events that take place during the three days that the mercurial Vienna-born actor Romy Schneider is holed up in a ‘spa’ in Quiberon.

It’s the sort of place that today will be called a detox clinic. Schneider, played beautifully by Marie Baumer, clearly loves her drink even as she is seen struggling with personal demons. A ‘Stern’ magazine reporter shows up, along with Schneider’s photographer friend, and the actor proceeds to give them a soul-baring interview, which is revelatory to the point of left-nothing-to-hide.

The film is a fascinating portrait of a life disintegrating even as we watch. On the surface, here is a gorgeous woman with everything — a career going places (among other things, Schneider fell in love with Alain Delon, went off to the US, worked with Jack Lemmon and Woody Allen, all the while retaining her French/German roots) — and a couple of lovely children. Her young son died in a horrible accident, and it is said that she was never the same again. What makes people to do the things they do? Underneath the skin and bones, who really, are we? Like all good films, 3 Days in Quiberon, a feature based on fact, compels you to ask the hard questions, and leads you to think.

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