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The Look of Silence

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

This film is a companion piece to the director’s (Joshua Oppenheimer) “The Act of Killing” from 2013, a film I reviewed here roughly two years ago. I found that film emotionally and spiritually devastating, and wrote at the time of how I wasn’t certain if I could ‘handle’ a rumored, lengthier, director’s cut. But I was compelled to experience this follow-up anyway. The result? If anything, “The Look of Silence” may be even more shattering than its predecessor. And like the first foray, it is executive-produced by renowned documentarians, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, and also nominated for an Oscar. It’s the best of the 2015 nominees.

Like “The Act of Killing” before it, “The Look of Silence” pulls its non-fiction narrative drive from the mass Indonesian Killings of 1965-66. Unlike the previous film, this one pinpoints most of its focus on one man. The now middle-aged Adi Rukun, is determined to confront the killers of his older brother, Ramli, who was tortured and murdered by the sadistic “New Order” followers. Young Ramli was massacred after being labeled a communist. Adi, an optometrist, manages to “interview” the free men connected with killing his brother, some of them via the guise of a scheduled eye exam. None of them show remorse for the atrocities enacted, claiming that it was all just the “politics” of the time. And one of the accused turns out to be Adi and Ramli’s own uncle!

The more intimate focus utilized here is paramount to the separation of the similar focuses. There’s less flamboyance this time, than there was in “The Act of Killing”. No dress-up and reenactment for the murderers this time around. But the story is still unbelievably potent, the atmosphere almost unbearably dangerous, and the inflicted “wounds” still remarkably fresh for an atrocity that occurred a half century ago. I’ve seen all five Oscar-nominated documentaries, and it is a strong lot. However, this one is particularly fine, and will hopefully emerge the victor on February 28th. I suppose it’s much easier to view non-fiction remembrances, of mesmerizing performers like Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone. I get that. Those will certainly entertain you. But “The Look of Silence” will change how you view the world. It’s superb.

Grade:  A

next reviews up:  “The Danish Girl” & “Room”…plus the Top Ten Films of 2015!

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2 comments on “The Look of Silence

  1. Nice review!! I just did one myself as well, and found the movie extremely tough to watch.

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