The Look of Silence (2014)

look of silence poster 2015 documentary academy awards
8.5 Overall Score

Tough documentary about an event that was relatively ignored or even celebrated

Helps to see The Act of Killing first

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Look of Silence

Studio:  Anonymous

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  August 28, 2014 (Venice Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


Does time make the past clearer or fuzzier?

Between 1965 and 1966, a purge occurred in Indonesia that resulted in estimated killing of over five hundred thousand people of the Indonesian Communist Party.  Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary The Act of Killing looked at the deaths and interviewed those involved…many of which still are in power.  Now, a young man whose brother was brutally slain in the killings is asking the tough questions and going to the source…his brother’s killers.

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, The Look of Silence is a documentary movie and considered a companion piece to the Oscar nominated The Act of Killing from 2012.  The Look of Silence was released at the Venice Film Festival in 2014 but received wide release in 2015.  The movie was nominated for Best Documentary at the 88th Academy Awards.

I highly recommend seeing The Act of Killing before watching The Look of Silence.  I made the mistake of watching The Look of Silence first and it takes a while to get a grasp of what is going on in the documentary.  Even without watching The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence is a powerful (and attainable) documentary to watch as a solo piece.


So, you are responsible for the death of my brother…want to say anything?

This is one of those uncomfortable documentaries.  The narrator (who remains unnamed though he does allow people to know he’s the brother of Ramli Rukun) goes around questioning the men from The Act of Killing about his brother’s death which was talked about in the documentary.  The confrontations are uncomfortable and sometimes feel combative due to the age and mental capacity of the men being questions.

It isn’t always clear what the narrator is looking for as well.  I am unsure if he just wants the acknowledgement, an apology, or recognition of the people who were lost.  I do not know if he even knows because nothing will make what happened right.  The event has widely been swept under the rug in Indonesia, and many of the men who were part of the slaughter are still in power.


A trip to where the horror took place

The creep factor of the whole situation is that not only are the men not sorry, but they are proud of their actions.  This wasn’t really a war.  There were prisoners who were marched off to execution because of their beliefs (and even that has been debated).  The narrator speaks to an uncle who guarded the men who says he was protecting the country.  Multiple people spoke about drinking the blood of the dead to keep from going crazy and one spoke of taking the head of a victim into a bar to scare the Chinese…and then simply throwing the woman’s head in the trash.  It was a “war” in a sense more of ideas…but it really feels like a slaughter.

The Look of Silence feels like a very gritty documentary.  The viewer doesn’t have much guidance or structure and the events are simply presented.  I think the look at the narrator’s family is almost as interesting as the look at the killers and the documentary frequently bounces between the two.  The Look of Silence is a tough movie with no answers…but it also doesn’t claim to be giving them.

Related Links:

The 88th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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