The Look Of Silence review: A meander of pain

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.

the look of silence adi

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.

the look of silence mom

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.”


Rating: 8/10

How did you feel about the film?






10 Comments Add yours

  1. John Charet says:

    Great review 🙂 I have not see the documentary yet, but again, you wrote a great review 🙂 Here is another documentary from 2015 that might interest you: IMDB “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.” The documentary chronicles the distributor of a large group of films that from 1967-1994 specialized in schlock classics or B-movie classics. You might find it interesting as I did 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jw says:

      🙂 It’s always nice to know that you enjoy my reviews! Thanks 🙂 Never heard of it, but I will check it out, you always have fantastic recommendations!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. katelon says:

    Love your reviews. This documentary sounds important yet I’m not sure I could watch it. I’m still reeling from watching “Beasts of no Nations”.

    I’ve been a political/social justice activist, along with my spiritual and holistic work, all my adult life, so I’ve been involved with working to stop these kinds of things. They go on all over the world and sadly, the US government often is covertly behind them. The School of America, in Georgia, is run by the US military and training materials revealed through the laws requiring materials be shown publicly, show that in that training center, soldiers and leaders from other countries are taught how to torture, how to overthrow leaders, how to commit the very atrocities talked about in this film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jw says:

      Thank you, it really means alot 🙂 Oh wow, you have my full respect for the kind of work you do. It must be tough, but thanks to people like you the world can be a little better for everyone. Yeah, I guess its common in backward societies, or in places where civil war is rife…it’s really atrocious. I just hope there can be more awareness and less violence. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Keith says:

    Stunning documentary. For me it was equally as powerful as Act of Killing but on a much more personal level. Left me speechless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      It was powerful, but sometimes I felt that Adi was left so powerless,and he couldn’t (probably because the killers still hold some power) go full confrontational mode with them.


  4. Mark Hobin says:

    Have you seen Part 1, The Act of Killing? I’d recommend seeing that too. I had difficulty reviewing the film because it was so painful to watch. Sounds like the sequel is the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Nope, I haven’t but i’ve heard its more brutal than this one. I can totally relate Mark, oh boy it was tough just to even watch!


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