Movie review of “The Look of Silence”: A man seeks his brother’s killers in Joshua Oppenheimer follow-up to his 2012 documentary, “The Act of Killing,” about the 1960s Indonesian genocide.
In a long history of moviegoing, I’ve seen few films as harrowing to watch as Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary, “The Act of Killing.” The director’s follow-up, “The Look of Silence,” is nearly as powerful.
The subject is the killing of from half a million to a million Indonesians in 1965-66, after an attempted coup that eventually led to the ouster of President Sukarno. The victims were labeled communists, a term that was stretched to include anyone the army disliked. Many of the killings were carried out by Indonesians outside the military, some of whom developed a decided blood lust.
The murderers were never punished — in fact, they went back to their normal lives and even boasted of their deeds. Oppenheimer’s first film is a devastating depiction of the smiling killers, who re-enact — often gleefully — their crimes for the director’s camera.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The Look of Silence,’ a documentary directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. 103 minutes. PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing graphic descriptions of atrocities and inhumanity. Northwest Film Forum.
“The Look of Silence” aims to personalize this ghastly story by focusing on the efforts of an optometrist, Adi Rukun, to find out the truth about the death of his older brother, Ramli. We observe him watching Oppenheimer’s footage of numerous killers.
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Adi, hoping for closure, finally encounters his brother’s murderers. It would be unfair to detail the results, but these sequences are the movie’s emotional climax.