The Look of Silence


Biography / Documentary / History

IMDb Rating 8.3 10 10172


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bhudson-3 10 / 10

Amazing - must see - Adi is a standout individual

Focussing on a single family who during what is now known as a genocide in the late 1960s, who lost their eldest son. Adi, who wasn't born at that time, has a deep and personal commitment to not just finding answers that his whole family was asking, but to setting his country on a path of truth and reconciliation.

Amazingly, the perpetrators of the genocide were still in positions of power. The interview showed Adi time and again facing perpetrators of the genocide – those indirectly involved with his brother's killing – and later with those who were directly involved.

Throughout the documentary, Adi showed his calm nature, even when tested and even when displaying his resilience and determination to hear the truth. While steps were taken to protect Adi, thinly veiled threats to his safety where made – leaving the viewer in no doubt that he had literally put his life on the line.

Adi in person, at the Q&A session after the showing at Telluride, his answers (translated by director Joshua), his persona and his body language conveyed a disarming softness, a humbleness and an absolute commitment to the truth and reconciliation of his country.

I was honored to shake Adi's hand, to exchange a few words of greeting.

There is no doubt in my mind that I was in the presence of someone very special, someone who through his own deep and personal commitment was in the process of making the world a better place.

Reviewed by JoshuaDysart 9 / 10

Oppenheimer is the Most Important Documentarian of his Generation

With just two films to his name, both about the Indonesian mass-murders of the mid-1960's Oppenheimer has become the most important documentarian of his generation.

His second film, "The Look of Silence", coupled with his "The Act of Killing" has created a sea- change in the Indonesian truth, justice and reconciliation movement. Forcing new laws to be written and putting the government in a defensive position against the nation's media.

But Oppenheimer is more than an activist. He's an artist. His films are contemplative, playful and quietly confrontational. His visual attack is succinct, his marriage of form and theme is flawless and his moral intent is thunderous.

Where "Act of Killing" was concerned with a larger study of post-massacre Indonesia, "Look of Silence" chooses a more intimate landscape. Geographically, emotionally and cinematically it is regional. Concerned with a single killing, the men who did it – directly and indirectly - the family it affected and the small village that has lived with questions about other killings like it for fifty years. Where "Act of Killing" lived in absurdist grand cinema, "Look of Silence" exists in tight close-ups of the perpetrators, survivors and truth-seekers. More than anything, more than words, their faces tell the story. So much happens behind the eyes, around the corners of the mouth, in unspoken glances. The horror, doubt, guilt and seemingly impossible reconciliation stirs below the surface. For all the cinematic flex of "Act of Killing", this contained take on the same material, seems more haunted and human.

The star of the film, Adi the eyewear peddler, pursues this mission with intelligence and courage. We meet his family. His happy playful daughter, his thoughtful son, his cautious loving wife, his ageless mother (probably the most engaging character captured on film this year), his wisp of an ancient father, and his memory of a murdered brother, looming over everything. From them he finds the courage to question murderer after murderer face-to-face. The combination of his profession as an optometrist with his quest to seek truth would seem heavy-handed if it were fiction, but nothing here is inauthentic. In showing all of Adi's family, from the fresh and young, to the spent and dying, we see the full arc of life.

Lastly, the film makes a glancing but firm indictment against the American anti-Communist fervor that fed into - and the American corporations that profited from - these killings. It gives strong evidence that the Cold War, the war of ideology and the murder of millions, allowed for, and was even fought for, Western corporate dominance in places like this. And here the grinding up of human beings for profit in this situation is undeniable. Oppenheimer wants to make sure no one involved gets off without having to face, if not their own role in the massacre of millions, then at the very least, their culture's.

And so it goes, the people (wives, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, husbands), the silence, the haunted jungle hum that fills most of the auditory space in the film, the great and overwhelming significance of it all… everything pools together to show us something words alone can't manage. Something about how a horror can be so great that its impact can loom over generations. About living with debilitating fear of those who have claimed power over you through violence. About the most nightmarish tendencies in humanity, and our courageous capacity to overcome the worst of ourselves. About just how difficult it is to look into the eyes of a killer and say, "I know what you did."

And more profoundly, more frighteningly… "I know you."

Reviewed by rblenheim 10 / 10

Not just one of the most significant documentaries ever made, but a cinematic work of art

The 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Act of Killing", garnered world-wide praise and many awards for its shocking look into the current lives of the perpetrators of genocide in Indonesia during the mid-sixties. Its filmmaker was Texas-born verified genius Joshua Oppenheimer who lives in Denmark and has been making films since 1998. "The Look of Silence" is its companion piece, and where the earlier documentary was outwardly horrifying, this one is more quietly disturbing and, I believe, the more important.

After my viewing of it finished at 7 a.m., I was lowering myself into a warm bathtub when suddenly I became haunted by the feeling that headless bodies were floating past me as if I were in the Snake River where the corpses had been dumped. Indeed, I couldn't put the film out of my head the rest of the day, and haven't since. The film follows an Indonesian man named Adi Runkun whose brother had been brutally murdered in the 1965 purge of 'communists' as he confronts, in the present day and under the pretext of dispensing eye exams, the men who had carried out the killings (and who had boasted and joked about the carnage in "The Act of Killing"). We also see Adi's humane care-taking of his nearly dead father whom he bathes and consoles, and other family members who have had to live among his brother's murderers for decades. What makes this film so effective is how Adi refuses to display any emotion at the killers while the director continues to portray them as human beings rather than monsters (no revenge film this), but Adi's silent stare keeps burning into their souls as they squirm uncomfortably, stubbornly offering lame excuses while refusing any expressions of regret. By this method Oppenheimer makes the film much more of an iconic document of man's inhumanity to man, forcing viewers to contemplate parallels in history, most especially the Nazis who perpetrated the Holocaust in Hitler's Germany.

There is nothing easy about this film, yet it is one of the few films you must not miss if you have a heart that pumps blood.

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