In 1965, one million “communists” were murdered by Indonesian forces, who are still in control of the country. One of the most infamous victims was a man named Ramli, whose brutal death still haunts his family. After watching footage shot of his killers, Ramli’s younger brother Adi decides to confront the men responsible.
The Look of Silence is a companion piece to The Act of Killing, this time focusing on the family of one of the victims of the Indonesian genocide. This results in a much darker and sombre film, which really enforces how horrific this so-called “heroic act” was.
The centrepiece of the film is the protagonist Adi using his profession as an optometrist to visit the men responsible for his brother’s murder and ask them pressing questions about the killings. Some of the things these men casually say that they did is incredibly disturbing and sadistic, and shows that these killings are far from the righteous anti-communist revolution they are claimed to be. It will be completely understandable if those watching the film feel sick to their stomach while watching these scenes, which reveal how dark humanity can be.
Even though the Indonesian genocide was decades ago, Adi and his family are still deeply affected by these events, which really helps to give the film a more sympathetic human face. Adi confronted the men responsible for his brother’s murder at great risk, since they make no secret that they would be willing to kill again if the people “don’t change.” This results in the film being a bit tense to watch at times.
Probably the most amazing thing about The Look of Silence is that it is a film constructed out of more of the footage Joshua Oppenheimer shot while in Indonesia for The Act of Killing. Since the heavily political nature of the film would prevent Oppenheimer from ever reentering Indonesia, it is amazing that he was able to construct two documentaries out of the footage. The two films are very much companion pieces, with each showing one half of this chilling story.
While incredibly disturbing, The Look of Silence is still excellent.
Is The Look of Silence opening weekend worthy?
A very big yes! By focusing on the family of one of the victims, The Look of Silence heavily eclipses The Act of Killing by showing a much more human side to the story.
The Look of Silence opens on Friday July 24, 2015 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, including a discounted double bill with The Act of Killing on July 25, 2015. Please check website for details.