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The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer – 2015) Movie Review

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The Look of Silence is a companion piece to director Joshua Oppenheimer’s monumental documentary The Act of Killing. The Oscar nominated documentary allowed the perpetrators of the 1965 genocide (specifically Anwar Congo) to attempt to recreate their ‘heroics,’ and in the process began to shake them from their apathy. In contrast, The Look of Silence brings you painfully close to the grisly reality of the single awful fate of one man, Ramli, and his younger brother Adi’s terrifying confrontation of the murderers who remain in power.

Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence feels born out of a moral obligation to bring the harsh truths of the genocide back into conversation. The beginning of the film shows Adi pouring over footage of the perpetrators going through a sickening blow by blow of the torture that they inflicted upon Ramli. Peppered with laughs, reminiscing smiles and a palpable pride; from the outset those involved appear to have divorced themselves from humanity behind their butchery. Adi, an optometrist, uses his profession as a way to get face to face with the key individuals involved in his brother’s death.

The mastery of Oppenheimer is that he’s able to find beauty in Adi’s pursuit. Moments of stillness and silliness (Adi’s daughter cackling as she appraises the smell of her farts for example) in the modest family home are contrasted by compositions of the home as a temple where Adi is coming to terms with the task at hand. Adi’s elderly parents, his near deaf/blind and toothless father and his sharp vibrant mother share a lot of the screen time demonstrating such an enduring softness that shows the fragility of those who experienced this heinousness. Adi is ultimately putting himself at a great personal risk as subject and interviewer. The bravery that it takes to confront these seemingly remorseless people and their disbelieving families tactfully seeking remorse, dialogue and discourse instead of revenge is commendable.

LookofSilenceStars

The mastery of Oppenheimer is that he’s able to find beauty in Adi’s pursuit. Moments of stillness and silliness (Adi’s daughter cackling as she appraises the smell of her farts for example) in the modest family home are contrasted by compositions of the home as a temple where Adi is coming to terms with the task at hand. Adi’s elderly parents, his near deaf/blind and toothless father and his sharp vibrant mother share a lot of the screen time demonstrating such an enduring softness that shows the fragility of those who experienced this heinousness. Adi is ultimately putting himself at a great personal risk as subject and interviewer. The bravery that it takes to confront these seemingly remorseless people and their disbelieving families tactfully seeking remorse, dialogue and discourse instead of revenge is commendable.

Don’t get it twisted, The Look of Silence will disturb you; the candour with which the now elderly commandos discuss not only macabre slaughter but also the dry heaving inducing descriptions of drinking their victims blood to maintain sanity will chill you to your very core. The institutionalized propaganda of the events has now been spun into primary school curriculum, shows at the most base level, that communists have been demonized to the point that they’re monstrous. So then when they talk about the purge, which they do in the most fleeting and deceptively opaque terms, it’s the same way one would describe euthanizing a rabid dog.

Watching The Look of Silence, I was reminded of the proverb ‘In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king.’ Faced with the selective blindness of a community, a military and a country, Adi’s and Oppenheimer’s challenging voice appears like a mushroom cloud in the wake of an atomic bomb.

Score: 4.5/5

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Starring: Adi Rukun, M.Y. Basrun, Amir Hasan

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One thought on “The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer – 2015) Movie Review

  1. Monica

    We can endorse now is not just the holocaust. The Vanality of evil as Arendt pointed in Eichmann’s trial is not just obeing burocratic functions, in The Look of Silence is far beyond the opened acceptance of the perpetrators perversity. They enjoyed being recognised as the killers, the feel fulfilled and happy. In a century that condemns violence is an impact of revelation how can there still be societies that so openly embrasses genocide, torture and all sort of violence. At least people try to be hypocritical in political rightness. Here is the truth of power, desire of dominance, personal ambitions, unleashed brutality, everything in a natural ckndition of cruelty without guilt or shame. Revolting film. Makes me want to cry and hold Adi asking for forgiveness in the name of this human race.

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