Les to testimonies collected by Joshua Oppenheimer hit first by their excessiveness. And then, one comes to grasp the magnitude : this evidence is comparable to the films shown during the Nuremberg trials to condemn the crimes against Humanity undertaken by the Nazis.
In 1965, the indonesian army takes advantage of the confrontation between the soviet bloc and the United States by conducting a purge with all the elements deemed dissidents, under the guise of being “communists.” This term, as recalled by Joshua Oppenheimer in his brief introduction, was, in fact, all those who deviated from the norm, imposed by a fascist state : unionists, atheists, buddhists, political activists and community activists, peasants, refractory…
The list of victims is endless, because it is a mechanism totalitarian similar to the genocides of the Twentieth century. The army not wanting to get their hands dirty, has delegated the thankless task of this slaughter to an organization, para-military, responsible in turn to engage “gangsters”. These thugs are celebrated still today, the teacher in the highest positions of the State, as “free men” courage is immense, and to whom the Nation of indonesia will always be grateful (sic).
In front of the dimension astronomical murder – over 1 million dead – it is hard to believe that these crimes are going unpunished.
Yet, the ideology of “gangsters” has seeped into all strata of indonesian society. As shown in his previous film, The Act of killing, the massacre of “communists” during the 60’s is a matter of pride. A “feat” that legitimate that these criminals go unpunished regularly come racketter traders, openly express their hatred to the media complacent or even decide to make a film to revive the former glory. The scenes of reconstruction of the massacres in The Act of killing, scripted by the gangsters themselves, were a diving scary in the psyche of these executioners.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE, takes up the story of these gangsters to confront the difficult business of memory undertaken by Adi, whose older brother was killed in a horrible way during the events of 1965.
Moving, informative and discreet, THE LOOK OF SILENCE takes the time to identify a hero modern with a past taboo.
Adi has been watching the images of the filming of Joshua Oppenheimer, where the murderers recount with pride their crime in detail (mutilation, rape, infanticide, etc). Without seeking revenge, Adi wishes to understand the attitude of these torturers : have they no remorse ? Only regret-they nothing ?
Adi is undertaking with the assistance of the director, Joshua Oppenheimer to meet with the murderers responsible for the murder of his brother, although his nearest and dearest, caution against this approach deemed “subversive.” Even today, nearly 50 years after the fact, it is not good to be accused of “communist” in Indonesia. For the population, the “communists” are sub-humans without a religion, accused of swapping and conspiracy against the State. In fact, the people massacred were just another religion, lived in the same model family that their neighbors and simply had ideas that are more progressive than those of the junta still in power. But the propaganda films of the 60’s continue to drink the collective unconscious.
The great discovery of Joshua Oppenheimer is to serve skilled in the art ofAdi to get close to the torturers. Growing older, many are those who are in need of new glasses. Adi, ophthalmologist, makes it so simple medical visits that the murderers were accepted on the advice of Joshua Oppenheimer.
The people appeal to the director, Joshua Oppenheimer, indicating that they have known him for several years. THE LOOK OF SILENCE – like The Act of killing represents the fulfillment of the documentary process, which requires a determination on the long term in order to obtain the trust of the people who will be filmed. We imagine the documentary filmmaker forced to mingle with murderers for months, listening to the most neutral possible, the horrors they could tell him, with always in mind the purpose : to make emerge the truth.
Not to speak of “staging”(a term always a tricky one for a documentary) the device film found by Joshua Oppenheimer for THE LOOK OF SILENCE is less spectacular than that of The Act of killing, which proposed to leave to the murderers of the total freedom to make images of their crimes. This dive in the darkness took the form of a nightmare kitsch that it was difficult to sustain for 2: 30, but was at the same time fascinating by its excesses.
It is not surprising to find for his suite, the name of Werner Herzog as an executive producer in the credits of THE LOOK OF SILENCE. We know the fascination of the German director for the blisters of the sore regular. In the killing rococo of The Act of killing there was a madness comparable to that ofAguirre, or the wrath of God.
However, the enormity of the murderers is more in the background in THE LOOK OF SILENCE, to focus on the approach heroic ofAdi. The young ophthalmologist risk his life in every interview with the tormentors of his brother. These torturers are feared by the population, such as dormant volcanoes, their violence may erupt at any time.
The director was able to create a relationship of proximity unwavering with Adi, allowing us to see his daily life and his family life with modesty. The empathy that we feel for this heroes real property is total. What can lose Adi is so huge (his life or his family) about what they can win (as the torturers asked him “forgiveness”), that it is in full phase with his crusade.
It is understandable, therefore, thatIda hides a part of his identity, as well as the many technicians and stakeholders who will not be present in the credits only as’anonymous. The long list ofanonymous at the end of the film sums up in itself the complexity of the approach of this Danish author.
“Moving, informative and down-to-earth, the film takes the time to identify a hero modern with a past taboo.”
The only downside to THE LOOK OF SILENCE is the difficulty of keeping track of issues in the battle ofAdi without having seen The Act of Killing before. But the remedy for this deficiency is simple, before going to see THE LOOK OF SILENCE, (re)watch The Act of Killing.
If one day the “gangsters” or the indonesian government are judged for their crimes, it is certain that the films of Joshua Oppenheimer will be present to something.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE brings a nuance of size to The Act of Killing : the word of the descendants of the victims of the massacres releases. We can hope that a third film shows us the beginnings of a remedy to their suffering.
Take a look at our discussion exclusive with Joshua Oppenheimer for THE LOOK OF SILENCE in the video (the subtitles are enable at the bottom right) :
• Original title : The look of silence
• Achievement : Joshua Oppenheimer
• Screenplay : Joshua Oppenheimer
• Main actors : Anonymous, victims and executioners of the massacre of 1965 in Indonesia.
• Country of origin : Denmark
• Released : September 23, 2015
• Duration : 1h43mn
• Distributor : Why Not Productions
• Synopsis : Adi, the brother of a man slain in 1965, a victim from among the million dead of the militias, para-military, dares to confront the tormentors, yet regarded as heroes. Ophthalmologist, Adi tries to change the look of some of his patients with the most dangerous, at the risk of his life.
Grand Prize of the Jury at the Venice film Festival 2014
FIPRESCI prize of the international critics.
Audience award at the Angers Premiers Plans Festival