The Look of Silence

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The Look of Silence

Not so much a follow-up as a new angle on Joshua Oppenheimer’s harrowing examination of the Indonesian anti-communist massacres of 1965, The Act of Killing.
Once again the documentarian shakes up our ideas of guilt, retribution, and coming to terms with a horrific past. Here the focus is on one optometrist – whose brother was killed in the massacres – with the perpetrators feeling no shame about their role in the killings. Indeed, as seen in the previous film, many are proud of what they did. It’s relatively straight forward for him to track them down and confront them under the pretence of performing an eye exam.
It’s a smaller scale approach than the previous film and lacks some of its blunt force impact, but as a more personal look at the subject many of these scenes have a more personal horror that’s equally hard to shake. Time and again the killers brush off their actions or take ghastly pride in the killings, leaving our lead with his humanity negated (by the killers) yet re-enforced by the depth of feeling he has for his brother. It’s not easy viewing, upending as it does so many things about human nature that we want to believe. Sometimes revenge is a dish that’s never served at all.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris