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The Look of Silence – Movie Review

the look of silence

The Look of Silence – Review by Frank L.

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

This is a companion piece to Oppenheimer’s “Act of Killing”. It relates to the same massacre of a million individuals in Indonesia fifty years ago. They were considered to be communists and therefore bad people who had no rights. The community would be better off without them. They could be disposed of brutally as they were bad. The perpetrators of these deeds became pillars of the society. No one was held to account for the massacre of the individuals. Society returned to a peace within which the relatives of the victims bore their pain in silence. The massacre was not discussed.

The documentary is centred upon the search by a young man in his forties for the killers of his elder brother. His mother, a mentally powerful woman, is still alive and the father is but a husk of a man.

The young man has a series of encounters with the perpetrators and those associated with them including one of his mother’s brothers. There is no remorse; there is no regret: there is no acceptance of responsibility. The perpetrators have not any doubt that what was done was acceptable or even praiseworthy. There are the inevitable moments of convenient amnesia and breath-taking evasion. Oppenheimer depicts a society which through various stratagems keeps its violent past hidden. The silence ensures, as of now, a peace which is probably false but at least this film and its predecessor ensures that the massacre is not entirely obliterated from the mind.

Oppenheimer is a superlative story teller. He also has an ability to get under the skin and make people talk who probably should choose to remain silent. The young man who is the vehicle to make them talk is by definition brave as he seeks to find out exactly what happened to his elder brother fifty years ago. It is shocking. It is anger inducing. It is spell binding. It is an excellent film.


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