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The Act of Killing (2012)

8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 15,435 users   Metascore: 89/100
Reviews: 90 user | 226 critic | 30 from Metacritic.com

A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 47 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Himself - Executioner in 1965
Herman Koto ...
Himself - Gangster and Paramilitary Leader
Syamsul Arifin ...
Himself - Governor of North Sumatra
Ibrahim Sinik ...
Himself - Newspaper Publisher
Yapto Soerjosoemarno ...
Himself - Leader of Pancasila Youth
Safit Pardede ...
Himself - Local Paramilitary Leader
Jusuf Kalla ...
Himself - Vice President of Indonesia
Adi Zulkadry ...
Himself - Fellow Executioner in 1965
Soaduon Siregar ...
Himself - Journalist
Suryono ...
Himself - Anwar's Neighbor
Haji Marzuki ...
Himself - Member of North Sumatra Parliament (as Marzuki)
Haji Anif ...
Himself - Paramilitary Leader and Businessman
Rahmat Shah ...
Himself - Member of Parliament
Sakhyan Asmara ...
Himself - Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport
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Storyline

A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A story of killers who win, and the society they build


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

| |  »

Country:

| |

Language:

|

Release Date:

8 November 2012 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Az ölés aktusa  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$27,450 (USA) (19 July 2013)

Gross:

$484,221 (USA) (28 February 2014)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (extended) | (TV) | (TV)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

An audience member after a screening in Berlin said that what director Joshua Oppenheimer had done was "like having SS officers re-enact the Holocaust." Oppenheimer responded that it is not the same at all 'because 'the Nazis are no longer in power', while the death squad members shown in the documentary are still being protected by the Indonesian government. See more »

Quotes

Anwar Congo: In my dreams they have threatening voices. They're like ghosts who hate me... They laugh, but frighteningly.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Pauw & Witteman: Episode #7.117 (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Nonton Bioskop
Composer: Benjamin Sueb
Courtesy of Biem T. Benjamin
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User Reviews

 
HK Auteur Review - The Act of Killing
8 September 2013 | by (Hong Kong) – See all my reviews

By omitting the historical context behind the 1965–1966 Indonesian killings and letting the Indonesian death squad leaders tell their own story, watching The Act of Killing evokes the Nietschean idea of 'gazing into the abyss'. That if one were to 'gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.' The Act of Killing is a deep ocean of ideas, constantly reflecting the human condition. Every scene was like a wave, with an entirely different idea, crashing over the previous scene and provoked a new thought in me. My thought train spiraled and branched off into different directions.

At first, I thought about the brutality of man. Then it went to how history is written by the victor.

And then I thought about the nature of cinema and storytelling. That in the act of telling their own story, the death squad leaders became conscious of their past actions through the task of having to present it to an audience. The aesthetic distance, interestingly enough, ends up being the distance these death squad leaders needed to truly examine what they have done.

And then I arrived at the nature of how extreme ideas in society prevail, despite of how illogical or inhuman they may be. That logic is relative, anyone can easily manipulate logic to justify any action. One can make anything sound logical to do whatever they desired in a given moment.

And like that, the film kept on giving infinitely and its themes continually deepened. The Werner Herzog brand of the 'ecstatic truth' is at play here. Each audience member will have their own individual experience of the film's ideas and themes, because the film allows it so. Director Joseph Oppenheimer never puts these men on trial and instead of burrows for something deeper to reflect humanity at its core. These men, like anybody, are just human. And I cared and became invested into their emotional journey through how Oppenheimer displays their humanity, which was perplexing at points. I had to remind myself that they were still mass murderers.

At a two and a half hour running time, the film is too long. It's hard to sit with such heavy material. There is a 115-minute theatrical cut that exists, which is 45 minutes shorter than this director's cut. Joshua Oppenheimer seemingly wants to cover more ground than needed and less definitely would have been more. I stuck with it alright because I was fascinated by the film's subjects, but it may test the patience of general audiences. That said, The Act of Killing is a great story told through subjects that I never ever want to meet in real life. It is an unsettling and powerful experience and is one of the best films of 2013, if not the most important.

For more reviews, please subscribe to my film blog at http://hkauteur.wordpress.com/


34 of 39 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
Anyone else hate the subtitles? SandersOnPPW
Oh, how we love to point fingers. . . to other murderers but ourselves. wzard999
I'm Indonesian and I find this disturbing wuhugm
Criminal that it didnt win an oscar magicninga
Where is the American involvement in this? celestemekent
What messages did you take away from this film? TheViewfromNowhere
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