The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing ★★★★★

In 2013 I had a Top 5 list all prepped for the podcast, and felt pretty good about it. Short Term 12, Her, Before Midnight, 12 Years A Slave, and Dallas Buyers Club had all stirred something inside of me. Then something came along and ruined the very idea of a list: The Act Of Killing.

What could I do with it?! If Short Term 12 brought me to tears for a fictional character's struggle, how could I react to a man recounting the loss of his family to the very face of their laughing, thriving killers? If Fassbender let humanity shine through evil, what label could I put on a mass-murderer reenacting unspeakable deeds with his eyes right on me, narrating his paper-thin justifications and coping mechanisms, then breaking down in a fit of gut-wrenching, too-far-gone-to-even-call-it-remorse revulsion? What slot does that make? Right above Jesse and Celine? Right below the guy who falls in love with a computer?

I gave up on labeling it, because The Act of Killing isn't a film: it's a treatise on the human condition. It's drama of Shakespearean proportions with zero dramatic conceit, the best and worst of humanity juxtaposed on a screen. It's the unseen epilogue of Calvary: evil picking up the phone, looking you in the eye through the prison glass, and telling you exactly what it did and why it did it. As fiction, this film would be sadistic. As truth, it's essential.

When this movie hit iTunes, I posted on Facebook that I would buy anyone the $9.99 digital copy provided they watch it and tell me their thoughts. A handful took me up on the offer, and it was worth every penny; I'd be happy to throw up the same offer here on Letterboxd. This is a movie that changes you. It should be required viewing for personhood.