Monday, April 13, 2015

DIFF 2015 Review- THE LOOK OF SILENCE- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer
Synopsis: A brother of a victim of the military overtake of Indonesia is on a quest to confront his brother's murders.

When Joshua Oppenheimer's THE ACT OF KILLING came out three years ago, the film blew everyone away with its subject matter. In KILLING, Oppenheimer followed around leaders of the military coup from Indonesia as they recreated the killings they committed towards "communists", or anyone who dare oppose the new regime. It's a difficult film to swallow, but necessary in understanding the psyche of evil. In his follow-up feature, A LOOK OF SILENCE, Oppenheimer now opens another chapter in this horrific tale, but this time, it's from a victim's perspective.

Adi is a optometrist who seems to have a decent business and stable life despite living in a very uneasy area. He also lost his brother, Ramli, during the military overtake in the 60's. He was born after the fact, and his birth is one of the reasons his mom says they didn't go crazy. Adi is on a mission to confront his brother's assailants, yet he isn't looking for retribution. He never really says what he's looking for or why he's doing this. That's left open for interpretation. When he comes face-to-face with a number of people who had a hand in his brother's death, Adi is always strangely calm and collected. Sometimes he tears up hearing their stories, but never loses his cool and is always thoughtful and strategic with his questions.

Adi's journey is just one of countless stories that could be told from this region. In this film, they just look at one period, when leaders took out 500-600 people in just one area. And that was just in one month. What's even more chilling is a lot of these leaders are still alive and well today. They live in the same areas, and everyone knows who they are and what sort of power they have still.

When Adi confronts them, it's fascinating to watch the various justifications and thought process that they had when the massacres happen and what they still believe today. Almost nothing has changed. It was easy for them to justify their actions in the moment, but when they're made to talk about it now, you can see the struggle in their faces as they try to rationalize what they did. Even they don't fully believe in what they did was right.

What make this story unique is the opportunity Adi has to confront these people. If another filmmaker was telling this story, or KILLING hadn't been made, then I don't believe this would have happened. Because Oppenheimer already had a relationship with these leaders, Adi was given the chance to ask them questions (hopefully) without retaliation.

Oppenheimer is fantastic at just letting the story play out without interruption. He doesn't rely on music, reenactments, or crazy editing. He lets his subjects talk, explain, but most importantly, listen. He's not afraid of silence, which lets the audience, and the subject, digest what they've just heard. SILENCE equally compelling and powerful than it's predecessor. However, if you've never seen KILLING, this film is definitely strong enough to stand on its own, and the Oppenheimer doesn't assume you've seen KILLING before watching this. But watching them both will give SILENCE that much more gravitas and weight to Adi's story.

When we read about massacres and evil regimes in history books, it's easy to forget the faces behind those tragedies. Giving a face and a real story brings so much more depth to anything you could read about online. Oppenheimer clearly has a heart of this story, and it's evident in the care he takes in his subjects and subject matter. It's a tough film to watch, but it's an important one.

THE LOOK OF SILENCE will play again on Wednesday, April 15th, at 4:15 p.m.

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