Friday, 19 June 2015


The audacious singularity of Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence is sufficient to declare both as indubitable classics for all time. This is a rare moment where a filmmaker has uncovered a story so powerful, a technique of telling it so bold, he needn't strive for artistic greatness - these are vital humanistic documents in themselves. Oppenheimer is, though, an artist, and The Look of Silence is full of observations about humanity's relationship with nature, artfully crafted as to compliment and contextualise the narrative of non-natural deaths. The victims of Indonesia's communist cull are literally connected to the ground, and the garish splendour of their murderer's homes are as plainly wrong to our objective eyes as their abhorrent actions. Oppenheimer is objective too, which is to remark that he is sympathetic to the victims and their relatives, themselves victims of a crime that lives on in their, and thus the country's, collective memory. As the aged muddle those memories, those not present in 1965, as 1 million 'communists' were killed by internationally-armed militias, must now bear this tragedy - there can be no justice, but nor can there be any forgetting, and The Look of Silence is an appropriately horrible reminder to those who may be inclined to forget. Oppenheimer may not be able to bring his evidence to Indonesia, as its culture has been indoctrinated with perversions of the truth, but he is able to bring it to the West. But as a nation allows its natural resources to be branded ever more, its understanding of natural fact muddled not by time but by ignorance and power, it's clear whom he blames. It was the West that stood back in the '60s, the West who intervened only to enforce that branded, globalised culture, the West that infiltrates the language and the politics of Indonesia now. The Act of Killing was a surreal, excoriating attack on Indonesia's monsters; The Look of Silence exposes the monsters among us.