Don’t look for regret in ‘The Act of Killing’.
Central to the documentary are the events of 1965, when the Indonesian Government were overthrown by military, thereby elevating small time crooks (selling black market movie tickets) to the roles of death squad leaders. Some 1 million alleged communists were killed.
The men were never tried or convicted.
The film doesn’t focus on the victims, or descendants of the victims. The key figures are the death squad leaders themselves. Directors Christine Cynn, Joshua Oppenheimer (and Anonymous) allow the figures to explain their actions, to try to help us understand their motivations and how they have continued to live with their actions after all the decades.
One man, Anwar Congo, is unrepentant. He has no remorse for his actions back in 1965. So he wilfully, and meticulously re-creates how some of the killings took place. Because of his background which was influenced by the cinema, he goes about staging the crimes again (not to the point of actually killing anyone) with elaborate sets and costumes. He is delusional. Grandeur runs in his veins.
This is a confronting documentary, confusing at times, always bizarre. The executive producers are some of cinema’s finest – the documentarians in Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.
The subject matter is very heavy. And as the documentary goes on, a turning point begins to unravel. The recreation of the killings begin to bring to the surface emotions long held back.
I’ll never forget the final ten minutes of this documentary.
Film begins to take revenge.
Unforgettable. I can’t shake it from my mind.
Score: 3.5 / 5