Haunting and Powerful, ‘The Look of Silence’ Peers into an Orwellian Nightmare

GameStop, Inc.


In his last film, 2012’s The Act of Killing (it wasn’t released in America until 2013), Joshua Oppenheimer made a documentary unlike any other to come before or since, and quite possibly ever again. By exploiting the affection for Hollywood films by the perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, Oppenheimer was able to make some of the perpetrators confront the reality of their crimes for the first time. Within the villages of Indonesia, nobody talks about the horrific crimes of the past as the people behind the crimes have been vaunted into power. In preparation for Joshua Oppenheimer’s latest film, The Look of Silence, a companion piece to The Act of Killing, I did not revisit The Act of Killing since the many of the film’s most powerful moments are practically burned into my memory – it’s the greatest film I never want to see again. While the films are intrinsically tied, The Look of Silence is a different film with a different perspective on the effects of the forgotten genocide. It’s not the raw, unsettling punch of its companion, but The Look of Silence still strikes a lingering chord of unsettling reflection on a real life Orwellian nightmare.

The Look of Silence still confronts the brutal butchers of the ’65 genocide, only Oppenheimer has them confronted by Adi, whose brother Ramli was murdered in the ghastly purges of anyone deemed a “communist.” Adi was born after the atrocities and has grown up in a world where not even his elderly mother and father, Rohani and Rukun, want to discuss the truth in any detail. With the help of Oppenheimer, who interviewed many of actors in Ramli’s murderers, and under the guise of his own occupation as an optician, Adi is confronts the men responsible for the death of the brother he never knew, whose death nearly drove his mother into madness. This is a much more direct approach than the companion piece, but it’s just as effective.

As with The Act of Killing, the killers behind the brutal purges have no problem joyfully bragging about their bloody exploits. Nearly 50 years of being hailed as heroes has gone to their heads as they recall beheading people with wide smile and the creepiest laughter you’ve ever heard. These now-elderly war criminals also have no problem retelling the extent of their atrocities to Adi himself. These include confessions about beheading, genital mutilation, and drinking the blood of the victims, which they did so they didn’t go crazy. The moment Adi tells them his relation to Ramli, their arrogant expressions quickly change to silence then defensiveness. For most of these men, this is the first time that they haven’t been championed for the ghastly crimes.

The defensive statements employed by the perpetrators is the almost the exact same as the victims. Whether it is saying “the past is the past” or claiming that discussing the past is opening wounds that have healed, nobody wants to discuss the reality of what happened in 1965. The state is Orwellian in its manipulation of language to distort the truth, to craft a thoroughly believed official narrative including indoctrination in elementary schools. In this world, “communist” isn’t a term for someone who believes in the economic philosophy of Karl Marx, it’s just a term for anyone deemed undesirable by the brutes in charge. Nearly a million people brutally wiped from the face of the Earth and their slaughter has been deemed a triumph. That’s what happens when murderers are allowed to rewrite their own history.

The title of The Look of Silence doesn’t merely refer to the moments where butchers are confronted about their horrific actions. It also refers to the pained silence of Adi as he watches old tape of boastful confessions, and of a society that allows these horrors to be brushed away into distant memory. Silence plays an important role in the cinematic construction of the film. Oppenheimer employs multiple moments of prolonged silence to accentuate the silence that this society has adopted. These touches make the silence just as unsettling as the confessions of blood drinking.

Once again, Joshua Oppenheimer has constructed a powerful, unsettling film about a horror that has been swept under the rug. There is more bravery on display from Adi, as well as the numerous people who worked on the film anonymously, than in any other work of recent memory. These are people dedicated to speak truth to power in a land where that is an unthinkable sin. The Look of Silence isn’t a movie for those with weak stomachs and weak minds. This is a striking work that confronts a real life horror with equal parts bravery and artistry. Upon leaving the movie, a different kind of look of silence can be seen on the faces the audience – trying to mentally grasp the depths of this lingering despair. More than anything, Oppenheimer, Adi, and the anonymous workers who helped create The Look of Silence prove that it is worth reopening old wounds when they’ve merely been bandaged with lies. It may not be easy to talk about horrific elements of the past, but to bury them and ignore them is compound problems even more. If you can handle the tragic truth of The Look of Silence, you will see one of the finest and most important films of the year.

The Look of Silence opens in New York on July 17th, 2015 before expanding to Los Angeles and other cities starting on July 24th. An updated list of theaters can be found here

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Eric Bana Talks ‘Force of Nature: The Dry 2’ – Interview

Eric Bana Returns for the sequel to ‘The Dry‘ in ‘Force...

Letitia Wright’s Talks about her Latest Film ‘Aisha’ – Interview

Letitia Wright’s latest film, ‘Aisha‘, a story about immigration, resilience, friendship...

Blake Crouch and Matt Tolmach Talk ‘Dark Matter’ Coming to AppleTV+ – Interview

‘Dark Matter‘ a science fiction thriller series based on the novel...

Event News Event Reviews
Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Takes You to A Whole New World at Segerstrom – Review

Disney’s Aladdin takes the audience on a thrilling chase and a wonderous place...

Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach on The Queen Mary this Halloween

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach for the...

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice’ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the Arts – Review

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice‘ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part something: Hermione and the Mini-gun pt 2

Have a lead salad instead!

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part ?: Hermione and the mini-gun pt 1

It can't fire more than 6,000 per minute!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse: Kurt v Sid – HASTA!

Hasta La Vista Baby!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...