Text by Francesco Alò, in collaboration with badtaste.it
Translation by Bianca Baroni
The look of Silence, by Joshua Oppenheimer, the brilliant director of The Act of Killing joins the competition at the 71st edition of Venice Film Festival.
It can be said that Oppenheimer is back to the crime scene. After The Act of Killing, nominated at the Oscar in 2014, the Texan director continues the painful collection of post-1965 indonesian massacre proofs, whose victim was that million “comunists”, subjected by Suharto’s regime.
In The Act of Killing, words and images were devolved upon Anwar Congo, so in love with American gangsters he saw in movies that he became a perfect copy, at the service of the soldiers, ready to make him kill loads of dissenters.
In The Look of Silence, the floor is given to Adi, the young son of a family who fell victim (his brother was murdered so cruelly to end up to be in an illustrated book, written by one of the executioners). With the pretext of measuring people’s ability to see, he goes into old indonesians’ houses to ask thorny questions to a compatriots bunch of people involved in his brother’s killing. If The Act of Killing put up the methods used to kill and the regime’s repression through an interesting discussion upon propagandistic cinema, The Look of Silence shows a placid report on Adi’s investigative work, that reaches the top point when he’s against other Indonesians of his own generation. Oppenheimer’s aim is always the same: how can human body and mind stand the act of killing? It is possibly to live happily after having killed that much? Once again (though, less powerfully that in The Act of Killing) the reaction of the Indonesians involved in the massacre towards who asks them thorny questions is what strikes most. While propagandistic phrases show their weakness, that’s when arrive the soft hysteria of the laughters, the search for a magic exorcism (“if you didn’t drink human blood, you got crazy. So, I began drinking it”, explains an old hit man to Adi in a very calm way), the tendency to make it all look like a joke or an esthetic sublimation, the redaction of a book full of drawings which show the horror that, if kept only in mind, risks to drive them crazy. Adi doesn’t seem interested in revenge, but in the understanding of how much of awareness lives in those compatriots involved in the massacre.
His handsome face, meditative due to his eyes which can suddenly become questioning, is often upset in front of images and proofs. The documentary is interesting enough to confirm this tendency to insert this genre into one of the most important competitions worldwide (last year, in fact, it won the Sacro Gra). The Act of Killing was far better. It was Cain and villain and, following the tough law of the cinema, that’s what the best meditative side of human brain we care for. Anwar Congo is unforgettable, as his savage gaggins in the finale. Probably, Adi will be in our minds for a long time.