I watched this film about a week ago but I struggled to review it because I was confronted with this one thought; If a film is so devastatingly sad and tragic, how do we begin to review it’s quality? If all its elements are so nilhilistic and hopeless, and if we feel like we’ve been hit by a freight train, does it necessitate quality?
Joshua Oppenheimer’s film gives me a feeling I can’t describe in words. One part of me feels like it’s an insightful look at morality, the other part feels like the docu meanders around the idea of guilt and responsibility and then concludes at the same place it started. While the main subject (Adi) bravely confronted the demons of the past, it was painful and frustrating to watch him be perceived as a troublemaker. The perpetrators, those involved in killing supposed ‘Communists’, felt not even a slight tinge of remorse when they should have. At times, Adi’s probing seemed to backfire. Other times, he was overpowered in diction and his questions seemed to be fruitless. It’s a difficult watch.
Basically the documentary’s shines light on Adi, whose brother was brutally killed along with the whole million other “communists”. I have very little knowledge of this, even after watching the film, because the film focused more on the perpertrators reactions when confronted. But after searching up the net, I found that the military used the false idea that the “communists” were planning a coup that could overthrow the government to legitimize their plot. In actual fact, they never intended to do it. So the military employed the help of villagers to put an end to the communists. And kill they did. They whacked and slashed and cut and beat them to a painful death.
The docu doesn’t really give the full context. Granted, it’s never been talked about in Indonesia nor in the rest of the world. Indonesians still glorify the killers and revere them as heroes. It is like a fable; No one talks about it, but everyone knows. This “silence” is translated into the very interactions between victim and perpetrator. When Adi confronts them, they initially deflect responsibility, then aggressively defend their acts and provide warped justifications. Adi theorizes at one point that it is this seeded guilt that haunts them, so they try to forget it by making light of their murders and infantilizing their experiences with such child-like exuberance. Indeed, one of the perpertrators goes into full detail about his acts, focusing on the gory details and re-enacting them like killing for sport.
I don’t want to get into any more detail at this point if you guys wish to see this (It’s on Netflix!). You have to see for yourself to feel the film in its raw uncomfortable light. For me, it was tough. But when I think about the familes who’ve lost their loved ones to the madness and wickedness of the Indonesia regime, I find myself considerably lucky but feel extremely sad for them. And to think that the glorification of the killings still persist to the present day and age, it makes me sick. Ultimately, the film did shed light on a gruesome truth without much fuss; It’s silence and still frames capture a hidden mentality, feeling and mindset perfectly. Relentless and without reprieve, The Look Of Silence is the very definition of an unyielding and defeaning silence.
“There’s only one way to avoid it; drink your victims blood or go crazy.”
How did you feel about the film?