The Look of Silence
Since making such an impact on the minds and hearts of cinema-goers with the haunting and powerful The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer returns with the second instalment: The Look of Silence. Whereas the first film focused more on killers and their interpretations of the slaughter of a million alleged political revolutionaries in Indonesia, this documentary puts its emphasis on one the victims, Ramli. Despite the thousands of innocent planation workers who were also murdered, Ramli’s death is of particular significance mainly due to the barbaric, public and horrific nature of it.
The film opens to an old man singing karaoke, seemingly having a rather enjoyable time. It later emerges that he was one of the men responsible for the deaths of nearly a million innocent people, ranging from intellectuals to humble plantation workers. He laughs, almost manically, about the gruesome ways in which he murdered people, ending each account with “you asked!”
The story centres around Ramli’s younger bother Adi, born two years after his death, and his search to find the people responsible and bring them to account. He takes it upon himself to break the spell of silence surrounding the genocide and make people answer for their actions. For the sake of their own safety, a team of anonymous filmmakers led by Oppenheimer track down these people one by one. Access to them is made a lot easier by the fact that Adi plays his trade as an optician to their advantage. References to the last film are made when Adi watches the accounts made by his brother’s killers; one thing they all have in common is a remarkable detachment to the situation, and an almost arrogant belief that their actions were of a heroic nature. There’s a psychotic element to how the killers laugh and joyfully recount exactly how they murdered their victims.
This incredible film seems to leave more of lump in the throat than the last film, mainly due to its following of a family desperately searching for answers. The audience will share in their despair, and empathise with their anger and with their pain. A truly remarkable piece of cinema!
Amaliah Sara Marmon-Halm
The Look of Silence is released nationwide on 12th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Look of Silence here: