Monday, January 27, 2014

Equally Impressed And Depressed By The Act Of Killing

And then there's this movie: The Act of Killing.
In many ways this is the polar opposite of Dirty Wars. Joshua Oppenheimer did not set out to make a statement about a certain regime or to say the world is our enemy. He wanted to build something organic, something that could unfold before our eyes... not a past tense, but a present. So he found these men... famous "executioners"... self titled "gangsters" who have become celebrities in Indonesia. These men have never payed for killing 4.3 million people... people they claimed were communist without any real proof. In fact, these men get to live the high life.
So the idea to have them represent, on film, some of their most memorable kills in whatever way they'd like... essentially Oppenheimer gave them a medium in which to prove their own guilt to the world. And at a point, even they can't believe how terrible some of their acts appear on screen.
It's quite an amazing experience, unlike any I've seen in modern film. To say I was shocked by the way these men convince themselves they were not wrong for committing murder... mass murder... would be an understatement. But the driving force for continuing to live as they do must come from a place of forgetfulness or absurd inhumanity.
The Act of Killing walks a tightrope between the potential to condemn these men or the hope that the filmmakers can prove themselves better than them by not taking cheap shots. In the end there is one very real/vibrant conversation... the only time Oppenheimer seems to speak out on camera and the point he makes is just perfect and once again unforced... totally organic. It's a moment worth commending because it took no overexertion of force to put the reality into perspective for the main killer Anwar Congo.
I can't yet speak on the rest of the documentary category, but at present this would be my front runner for the Oscar. Watch it on Netflix.

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