The Look of Silence

The Look of Silence ★★★★

Oppenheimer returns to Indonesia, to finish what he started in giving the victims the opportunity to speak and to focus on the silent pain that the country has been carrying for 50 years. Whereas The Act of Killing was more psychological from the killer's perspective, The Look of Silence is more meditative in showcasing the secret grief of those remaining in suffering for all of these decades. In his first film, the scope was widened, and the country as well as its leaders were all held at attention. By doing this, Oppenheimer gave the audience a rare glimpse inside the propaganda machine as well as its prominent actors that continue to distort Indonesian society. With this latest film, we have gone past being accustomed to the idea that these men still have vast power in the country's government, so our focus shifts to a more limited scope in examining the victims living in grief to a potentially bigger goal in bringing the truth further and further into the light.

I remember being quite amazed at the talent of Oppenheimer in how he successfully penetrated the entire organization, interviewing top officials that seemed so easily trusting in detailing as well as showing him their "ways". However, like the director himself had said during an interview, this film had more of a risk in filming than in The Act of Killing. In the first film, he was able to more or less appear indifferent and they took that as an welcoming ear but in The Look of Silence, there was a heightened level of danger at play when they seriously challenged the morals or lack thereof of these elderly death squad leaders. To top it off, Oppenheimer had to carefully plan out a strategy in order to obtain the footage of the man the film centers on (Adi) questioning his brother's murderers. Throughout the entire film, I actually felt negativity towards Oppenheimer for putting Adi in risk for such harmful consequences even if it was his own intent. I was relieved to hear that Adi had relocated after the film was finished to further protect his identity and location. This further proves the lengths that Oppenheimer will go to in crafting his documentaries and getting this vitally important information out to the public.

He always used the perfect metaphor of the hypothetical situation if Nazi Germany won WWII, and they still held power today with their SS commanders being hailed as state heroes. It is exactly the same thing that is occurring in Indonesia. I'm extremely glad that these films were able to be made and watching footage from the Indonesian premiere of this film shows Oppenheimer's documentaries are progressing change in the country. His film The Act of Killing could go down as one of the few films whose potency elevated past the medium of film into affecting real life consequence. The same as how The Thin Blue Line proved a man's innocence or how Titticut Follies exposed the inhuman conditions of mental health hospitals during its era. The Look of Silence is a great companion piece but it wouldn't even exist if the first film had not first broke the silence.

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