Shocking but Superb!
The Act of Killing , is a documentary that investigates one of the biggest but also least publicised genocides in world history, the Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966. The story is told from the perspective of real members of the death squads that murdered almost a million communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals. The worst thing may be that they did so with no apparent remorse, as they even dare to recreate their killings in front of the camera with an unexpected pride.
American Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer brings to our screens what is perhaps one of the best documentaries in recent years, as The Act of Killing pushes the limits of the viewer’s understanding to the edge. It’s shocking to see how Anwar Congo, one of the most infamous executers in North Sumatra, together with his death squad went from being ticket scalpers to becoming cold blooded murderers, and to this day they seem to be happy about what they did. Furthermore, they even laugh at it and they dare to represent the tortures and murders committed in a theatrical way using their favourite movie genres (western, musical, etc) as if it all was just a cruel joke. At the same time they ponder about how they want people to remember them, and about what they reckon they did for their nation and beliefs. To make matters even more shocking Anwar is somehow considered a national hero and people on the street respect him.
Anwar even goes as far as coming up with the idea of using hired actors to recreate the murders, with full-fledged costumes and sets. At first this seems fun for the former mass murderer, but as the violence escalates in the story and more and more crude tortures and killings are recreated, Anwar’s demons hit him and finally some feelings of remorse start to kick in. The revelation of this process on camera is what makes this documentary so superb.
The Act of Killing might not be everyone’s cup of tea, as it feels a bit slow sometimes and the story makes the viewer hate the lead characters within the first 10 minutes. However, the way this disturbing film is edited along with its shocking ending creates a deep impact. This documentary’s horrific message will probably stay in the viewer’s mind for a while, as it’s hard to believe that human beings can possibly inflicts such cruel acts upon each other.
The DVD also includes some interesting special features:
– Director’s Cut Audio Commentary with Joshua Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog (A must see!)
– Theatrical Cut of the feature (115 min)
– Werner Herzog and Errol Morris on The Act of Killing
– Q&A Masterclass with Joshua Oppenheimer
– Theatrical Trailer