An Indonesian man with a communist background named Ramli was brutally murdered when the "Communist" purge occurred in 1965. His remaining family members lived in fear and silence until the making of this documentary. Adi, a brother of his, decided to revisit the horrific incident and visited the men who were responsible for the killings and one survivor of the purge. These meetings uncovered sadistic details of the murders and exposed raw emotions and reactions of the killers' family members about what happened in the past - much to Adi's disappointment.
Not just one of the most significant documentaries ever made, but a cinematic work of art
The 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Act of Killing", garnered world-wide praise and many awards for its shocking look into the current lives of the perpetrators of genocide in Indonesia during the mid-sixties. Its filmmaker was Texas-born verified genius Joshua Oppenheimer who lives in Denmark and has been making films since 1998. "The Look of Silence" is its companion piece, and where the earlier documentary was outwardly horrifying, this one is more quietly disturbing and, I believe, the more important.
After my viewing of it finished at 7 a.m., I was lowering myself into a warm bathtub when suddenly I became haunted by the feeling that headless bodies were floating past me as if I were in the Snake River where the corpses had been dumped. Indeed, I couldn't put the film out of my head the rest of the day, and haven't since. The film follows an Indonesian man named Adi Runkun whose brother had been brutally murdered in the 1965 purge of 'communists' as he confronts, in the present day and under the pretext of dispensing eye exams, the men who had carried out the killings (and who had boasted and joked about the carnage in "The Act of Killing"). We also see Adi's humane care-taking of his nearly dead father whom he bathes and consoles, and other family members who have had to live among his brother's murderers for decades. What makes this film so effective is how Adi refuses to display any emotion at the killers while the director continues to portray them as human beings rather than monsters (no revenge film this), but Adi's silent stare keeps burning into their souls as they squirm uncomfortably, stubbornly offering lame excuses while refusing any expressions of regret. By this method Oppenheimer makes the film much more of an iconic document of man's inhumanity to man, forcing viewers to contemplate parallels in history, most especially the Nazis who perpetrated the Holocaust in Hitler's Germany.
There is nothing easy about this film, yet it is one of the few films you must not miss if you have a heart that pumps blood.
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