Monthly Archives: March 2019

Film Review – They Shall not Grow Old

Director: Peter Jackson

Running time: 99 minutes

Robert Henderson

This is literally a unique film in terms of  its making. Peter Jackson has taken contemporary footage from the First World  War (the Great War)  and  coloured  the original black and white film in the most detailed and lifelike  fashion  and used special software  to bring the film to a speed which makes the movement  entirely lifelike. (Amongst the many arresting sights  in the film are the  early tanks which were  surprisingly efficient at riding over the very difficult rough ground created by the vast trench systems which  all too easily dissolved into seas of mud. )

Jackson used lip readers to discover what people were saying and then voiced their words using the most probable accents the speakers would have been using based on their regiments (British regiments have a strong tradition of recruiting from particular areas, and what were known as Pal’s Battalions” ).

Finally, he added sound effects for  such things as guns, shell and bomb blasts and even a yellow green mist to replicate the use of chlorine gas.  In short, the attention to detail is astonishing.

They shall not grow old opens with film untouched by sound, colour or speed alteration.  When the remastered and altered film arrives it is like watching a magician perform a particularly spectacular trick.  The original jerky, silent and drab film of the period  suddenly becomes as vivid and real as any modern  example of cinematography.

The film starts   by showing the  Britain of the immediate days after war was declared is shown preparing for  the battle to come as recruits are inducted and trained, all very chipper as they doubtless waited for “a crack at the Hun”.

There were also extraneous surprising  sights, for example the very   large number of motor vehicles in places such as London  despite the motor car being very expensive and barely out of its childhood.

The film concentrates on the war on the Western Front  (the primary  theatre of war in WW1) and deals with the infantry soldier, artillery and tanks.  There is nothing about the war in the air or at  sea, but that does not matter because the story Jackson is telling is about the soldier on the ground, especially the “poor, bloody infantry”.

Jackson decided not to use a single narrator. Instead, when comment and explanation  is needed he allows recordings of the words of men who served in the war drawn from the vast library of recordings held by the Imperial War museum. to provide it.

The voices of those  used in the opening passage are surprising ones, men who even after they had experienced the horrors of the trenches still spoke, always   matter of factly,  about doing their duty, of doing their job. Some went further and admitted that the war was the happiest time of their lives.  This is reflected in  the faces of the men who  are more  often than not smiling and joking  is  rife. There was little  if anything by way of combatants lamenting the futility of it all.

These were men of a stamp whom I can remember from my childhood (I was born in 1947) because there were plenty of men who had  served in the Great War still alive and kicking.  They rarely complained and would take in their stride setbacks which would floor many today.  Those from a  later generation who served in WW2 were much the same.  This difference in mentality compared with now is unsurprising because these were ordinary men who had stormed the beaches on D Day, served on the Russian convoys  (where,   after being torpedoed,  being in the water  for a few minutes signalled death from the cold)  or flown  with Bomber Command where the death rate for aircrew was 50%.   Such things put life into perspective and made trivial many of the daily annoyances of living,

All this  goes very strongly against the general idea of the Great War as being an unmitigated horror for those who served.

Even when talking about their feelings on days when they were scheduled to go over the top  the tone was down to earth. The soldiers were  more afraid of being severely injured than of being killed. Like a batsman waiting to go in  to bat the  nerves they felt evaporated once they were out of the trenches and marching towards the enemy.

But this  is not a film which sentimentalises war. It is unsparing in showing the physically disgusting aspects of life in the trenches, everything from the shattered and  decaying bodies of the dead  (both British and German) and examples of  gangrenous “trench feet”  to the oceans of mud and the general  privations  that war brings.

This is a very rare film  in that it offers no obvious grounds for criticism. It does what it says  on the tin without forced sentimentality or undue  reverence. It has the attributes of a first class documentary which in a strange way it  is , an act of reporting a hundred years after the event.

One last thought. I saw the film in a cinema. If you can catch it on the big screen rather than  your television or computer screen do so because it is much more impressive .

Film review : 22 July

22 July


Anders Danielsen Lie as Anders Behring Breivik

Jon Øigarden as Geir Lippestad

Thorbjørn Harr as Sveinn Are Hanssen

Jonas Strand Gravli as Viljar Hanssen

Ola G. Furuseth as Jens Stoltenberg

Ulrikke Hansen Døvigen as Inga Bejer Engh

Isak Bakli Aglen as Torje Hanssen

Maria Bock as Christin Kristoffersen

Tone Danielsen as Judge Wenche Arntzen

Sonja Sofie Sinding as Lycke Lippestad

Turid Gunnes as Mette Larsen

Kenan Ibrahamefendic as Dr. Kolberg

Monica Borg Fure as Monica Bøsei

Ingrid Enger Damon as Alexandra Bech Gjørv

Seda Witt as Lara Rashid

Anja Maria Svenkerud as Siv Hallgren

Hasse Lindmo as Svein Holden

Director Paul Greengrass


Having adopted the disguise of a policeman,  on  22 July 2011 Anders Breivik exploded a bomb  near a government building in  the Norwegian  capital Oslo  killing eight people. He then went to the nearby  island of Utøya where   a Workers’ Youth League (AUF) summer camp was being held. There he shot and killed 77 people  and wounded around  two hundred more.   Most of the victims were young.

Breivik’s justification for the attack  rested on his belief that Norway was being betrayed by its  politically correct elite  who were allowing large numbers of immigrants, and especially Muslim immigrants, to radically  change the nature of Norwegian society.

He chose  the government building  to bomb because it housed members  of  or auxiliaries of the elite and the summer camp because these were the children of those whom Breivik held responsible  for  what he saw as an existential threat to his society.

His  killing rampage is the  starting point of the film.  Breivik is shown as a merciless  but very efficient killer, as he must have been in real life considering the number of dead and wounded. If the bombing and shooting part of the film is viewed on its own with no clue being given that it was a dramatization of the  real life Breivik story viewers would probably respond to it as they would to a Hollywood shoot ‘en up action film. The shooting of the head of security  and the Camp’s director after they become suspicious of Breivik and ask for his I.D.  is as slick as killings in a Hollywood film.

After the killings the film follows two primary plotlines : that of Breivik and the other of the Hansen family.

We meet Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravli  )  early in the film when he and his brother Torje Hanssen (Isak Bakli Aglen) are already on the summer camp.   Viljar is selected to give an address to the rest of the Workers’ Youth League  campers. He trots out the routine liberal internationalist line about the wonders of diversity and  how everyone from anywhere should be welcomed.  Shortly after this trite little homily  Breivik starts shooting.

Viljar   and his brother Torje escape death but Viljar suffers serious wounds including one to the head.  A substantial part  of the film after this point is devoted to showing Viljar ‘s long and painful recuperation.  His part in the story culminates with Breivik refusing to look at   him as he makes a victim statement  to the court. The problem with this element of the film is that Viljar and his family, and especially Viljar,  are  incorrigibly wet and are poor vehicles for  engaging the viewer’s sympathy wholehearted.

The aftermath of Breivik’ mass killing is shown as agonising for the Norwegian elite because,  unlike many mass killers,   Breivik neither commits suicide nor is shot resisting arrest.  In fact,  being arrested is part of Breivik’s plan because he wishes  to bring his message  to a wide audience.  To this end he rings the police  and tells them he is ready to surrender. It is telling that the film does not include  this important fact. Instead it shows police arriving on the island and Breivik coming out with his hands up before he spread-eagles himself on the ground.

The omission is important because Breivik’s phoning of the police in real life shows him in control even of his arrest. In fact throughout the film   in a curious way Breivik is portrayed as controlling matters . He successfully accomplishes the bombing and the shootings, he decides when he should be arrested , he manipulates his trial.

Breivik also has the police running around looking for other would-be assassins. After his surrender to the police Breivik starts a hare running by claiming there will be a third attack on his signal  (after the bombing and shooting) , and that there are others in his organization. The police  eventually come to the conclusion Breivik is  a “lone wolf” attacker but  ithey are never really sure whether Breivik is bluffing.. .

Breivik’s choice of lawyer is a strange one on the face of it for it is Geir Lippestad, a lawyer who comes from the Norwegian ellite whom Breivik despises.  When asked why Breivik chose Lippestad, Breivik says that he remembers Lippestad defending  a neo-Nazi in an honest fashion.  A more Machiavellian explanation would be that Breivik wanted to see a member of the in his eyes despised elite twisting and  turning in the spotlight of the Norwegian elite’s  projection of Norway as a wondrously tolerant   and politically correct society. Whether or not Breivik intended this  the choice of Lippestad had precisely that effect.

A  Breivik alive and only too eager to tell his story  is a nightmare for the Norwegian powers-that-be . They do not want to be seen as intolerant, but the horror of the massacre makes it difficult  for them to simply treat Breivik as just a criminal. Nonetheless, this is what they attempt to do.

This  plays into Breivik’s hands because the dreadful truth about his motivation, namely, that those with power and influence in Norway have effectively conspired to allow Norway to be invaded by foreigners,  many of whom are Muslim, without the native population having any say in the matter.

The Norwegian elite know two things about Breivik: he is a mass killer and his motive is not merely hideously embarrassing but based on a potent fact, namely,  that they, the elite,  had  provided the motive for Brevik’s action. That is not to excuse what Breivik did. Rather, it is to assign a cause. It is inescapably true  that without mass immigration  into Norway Breivik would have had no motive to commit the massacre.

The most telling exchange of the film is between Breivik and his lawyer, Lipstadd   says “Norway is not on trial”  to which Breivik simply replies  with a smile “Are you sure about that?” That simple exchange encapsulates the moral confusion surrounding  Breivik’s terrible act.

There is also a scene which gives a small and fleeting but important voice from outside the Norwegian elite.

Lippestad is with Breivik’s mother  trying to persuade her to give evidence about Breivik’s unsettled upbringing. She refuses because she is afraid of public condemnation, but as Lippestad  is on his way out she suddenly blurts out the Breivik is right when he says that Norway has been changed by immigration and not in a way she liked.

The issue of mass immigration is a most serious concern for any Western nation but it is a particular worry for a small country such as Norway which has a population of only  5.37 million.  Over  the past 4 years (2015-2018)  128, 000 immigrants have arrived. It is a reasonable bet that most will be from third world countries.  Since 2000 the population overall has increased by 853,996. As the Norwegian birth rate is  below replacement level it is reasonable to assume that  the increase  is due to new immigrants and  immigrants having children.

Breivik first legal ploy is to plead insanity.  The man’s  motive in choosing this  path  is  ostensibly at odds with his  desire to make his motivation known to the world  as evidenced by both his planned surrender to the police and by his extremely long political testament which he put on line before he began the killing.

Either Breivik lost his nerve temporarily or  it was done to  enrage those Norwegians who form the liberal left elite and especially the relatives of those he had killed or wounded by thrusting in their face their hypocrisy in being angered into rejecting his plea of insanity when in the abstract such a plea would in almost any other circumstance have appealed  to their liberal left mentality. Suppose for example such a massacre had been carried out in Norway by a Muslim.  Would there not have been  Norwegian  voices raised saying the killer was  variously mentally ill,  radicalised until he was not responsible and/or created by a Western society which did not allow the killer to feel included in that society.  One of the most striking things about the film is no one attempts to make any  real excuse for what he did.

But whatever Breivik’s motive for the insanity plea he overthrows it and reverts to pleading not guilty.

The stars of the fillm are undeniably Anders Danielsen Lie as Breivik and Jon Øigarden as Geir Lippestad . Both are  excellent. Danielsen lie has the look of Cassius, lean and hungry, and  I suspect that  both his general persona and his unapologetic  explanation for  his actions may make his portrayal of Breibik fall prey to what might be called the Alf Garnet effect whereby a right-wing politically incorrect character elicits sympathy from the audience.  (For younger readers Alf Garnett was the lead character in a highly popular soap opera  which ran on BBC1 from 1965 to 1975  called Till death us do part. Garnett  portrayed white workingclass values and opinions  which were meant to crash on the rocks of “right on” younger generation characters. To the horror of the left in all its varieties this did not happen for  many viewers felt  the Garnett character was saying what they felt but dared not say about subjects such as immigration. )

Breivik’s message is seriously distorted by the massacre  and his fantasy  of being  a member of a modern Knights Templars Nonetheless,  that  cannot  sweep away  a great and dangerous truth for the multiculturalist internationalists  that they have permitted mass immigration which constitutes an existential threat to Norway as a Western nation state.

Since Breivik’s  murderous assault on both the victims of his killings and the psyche of the Norwegian elite the liberal left have begun to have their  naïve belief in a single human community  has been challenged in many places in the  West d by the rise of  a widespread populist revolt against the effects of mass immigration in general and Islamic immigration  in particular. This is not a direct result of Breivik’s  actions but is a response to the same general conditions – elites seriously disengaged from those they rule – which drove Breivik to commit his dreadful massacre.

Treated purely as a film 22 July would have benefitted from more severe editing because  at 2 hours 40 minutes it was probably 40 minutes too long . Nonetheless it is still a film which is both important and watchable.  It is important because whatever the intentions of the film’s makers it cannot hide the fact that Breivik was acting to combat what he and doubtless many ordinary Norwegians consider the betrayal of Norway by an elite not merely tolerating  but actively promoting the influx of foreigners in such numbers that  native Norwegians could find themselves  in the minority  by  2050.

The film as had a very limited theatre  release  but is also available on Netflix. On the day I saw it  was appearing only on two screens in London.

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