Film Review – The Look of Silence (2014)

Look of Silence 2014

Title – The Look of Silence (2014)

Director – Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing)

Cast – Adi Rukun, M.Y. Basrun, Amir Siahaan

Plot – Adi Rukun a middle aged Indonesian man sets out to find and interview those that were responsible for the death of his older brother during the Indonesian genocide that took place in 1960’s.

“How do you feel living surrounded by your son’s killers?”

Review by Eddie on 31/03/2016

A companion piece to his haunting and unique 2013 Oscar nominated documentary The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence may not have the same gut wrenching impact of his first Indonesian set tale but it’s still a highly insightful and quietly powerful look at the after effects of Indonesia’s mass killings in the 1965 Communist round ups.

Where The Act of Killing focussed its attentions largely on Anwar Congo and his fellow death squad members who were responsible for countless murders of their fellow countrymen, The Look of Silence turns its attentive gaze towards average every day optometrist Adi Rukun and his quest to find those that played a part in the brutal murder of his convicted communist brother Ramli.

It’s a much more straight forward tale than Killing that became something of a fever dream thanks to its subject’s willingness to re-enact and portray their experiences through bizarre home made movies and scenarios that had to have been seen to be believed. Oppenheimer this time around sits his camera on subjects and doesn’t shy away from the silence of the film’s title where questions are raised and eyes and facial expressions say more than words ever could.

Rukun himself is also a likeable presence and the way in which he deals and interacts with those that were involved with his brothers demise are the film’s most powerful. He asks thoughtful and loaded questions and refrains from letting anger get the better of him and Oppenheimer never shy’s away from allowing the story to play out without fanfare or manipulation and the true atrocities of what occurred in the beautiful countryside of Indonesia is never too far away from view even if this is very far from being a history lesson in the events.

A finely made compatriot of the Act of Killing that would make for a great double bill with its more accomplished forefather, The Look of Silence is not entertainment but it’s an important and effective study on war, loss and family and another reason to suggest that Oppenheimer is one of the world’s most interesting documentary filmmakers.

3 ½ self-illustrated books out of 5

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2 responses to “Film Review – The Look of Silence (2014)

  1. Probably one of the hardest movies to watch I had for the Oscar docu’s.. I literally had to put down the popcorn..and that’s not meant as a smart-ass comment..that’s meant as it was so disturbing & powerful, I just couldn’t stomach it.

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