The Look of Silence (2014)


Jesus, this film. Where to start. Well, I’d be hard pressed to say it’s an enjoyable or particularly fun film because it isn’t, in any way. It’s not even all that clear what the hell the film is actually about at times, especially the first 45 minutes or so, but, much like The Act of Killing before it, patience is rewarded, and once it gets going and the main “thrust” of the narrative is revealed, it’s one of the saddest and most disturbing documentaries ever made. And then some. Christ.

The main guy followed here who conducts the interviews, Adi Rukun, is arguably one of the bravest human beings ever captured on camera. The stuff he says and does, and ultimately doesn’t say and do, is just incredible. To summarize: Rukun’s brother was killed in the Indonesian genocide, and thanks to a fine mix of intimidation and overall powerlessness/poverty/ignorance/brainwashing of its citizens, those responsible for the killings were never prosecuted, nor, in some cases, removed from power.

The film, which takes its sweet time revealing, involves his confrontation of said characters and, in some cases, their families, about the murders, and the man holds nothing back, which makes for some of the most uncomfortable, nail-biting sit down interviews I’ve ever seen. And such vivid descriptions of murder, man. For a film that’s completely bloodless, it paints quite the vivid scene at times, particularly during the described reenactment of just how his brother was murdered. Seeing Rukun’s face as he watches footage of these killers talking about the murder, knowing those responsible lived long and prosperous lives as heroes in their respective communities, is nearly unbearable.

Overall, and man do I need to start making these reviews shorter, it’s just a bold, bold film. Not very pleasant or enjoyable to watch, and the beginning is a bit of a chore to get through, but once it gets going, it pays off in ways very few films ever can, with moments that will be burned into your mind forever. The interview with the daughter and her murderer father and her reactions to his horrific stories, and her subsequent response to Rukun once he tells her about his murdered brother as the father awkwardly tries to end the interview, was one of the saddest, most shocking things I’ve ever seen.

An important,  extremely powerful, but very, very disturbing film. I’d say a must watch, but given the slow, somewhat aimless beginning and the lack of superheroes or explosions or pop culture references, I doubt many ever will.

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