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The Act of Killing (2012 Documentary)

This is quite an incredible piece of work. It's quite hard to.fathom what or how the filmmaker must be feeling behind the camera since it's harrowing enough just watching the finished product.



The documentary-maker has travelled to Indonesia to visit the figures responsible for a military coup in which they killed thousands of people accusing them of being communists.

He has then asked these figures whether they want to make a creative artistic film about these killings they are so very proud of.



The whole enterprise feels doomed. Heck, even once they've agreed to make the film, how could the filmmaker hope to hide his revulsion at the events depicted? Why would the film even be limited to killings? Wouldn't the filmmakers inevitably find himself making disingenuous propaganda for a bunch of monsters.

What makes this work is the admiration of these murderers for American gangster flicks. It turns out that, even while performing the killings they had gangster movies on their minds. We are regular misinformed by a variety of figures during the film that 'gangster' means 'free man'.



The premise of 'The Act Of Killing' is that directing a film about the killings would inevitably make the killers think more deeply about their actions. In the role of director and creator you inevitably need to consider the motivations and feelings of the characters.

It must be remembered that the figures responsible for the massacres do not deny what they did, do not regret what they did and are actually proud of their actions, even while describing those actions as sadistic.



Surrounded by proud killers who gain regular praise for their past cruelty, listening to them relishing every gruesome detail they recall with smiles on their faces, the director must surely have been terrified. This film represents one hell of a risk and the way it paid off is extraordinary.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
sabotabby
Aug. 23rd, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC)
I've got that in my to-watch queue, but I'm actually afraid to watch it.
kita0610
Aug. 23rd, 2014 06:05 pm (UTC)
I've heard of this one. I cannot watch it.

('coup')
fatpie42
Aug. 23rd, 2014 06:06 pm (UTC)
(Ah yes, that is an embarrassing error... Now corrected. Thank you.)

Edited at 2014-08-23 06:07 pm (UTC)
deepseasiren
Aug. 23rd, 2014 10:07 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I'd be able to watch this but it certainly seems riveting in its own way.
fatpie42
Aug. 23rd, 2014 10:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've recently decided to stop giving ratings to documentaries. Half the time I find I'm giving the rating more for the subject matter rather than because I'm recommending the film.

There's no doubting that "The Act of Killing" was an incredible piece of work and was very well made and fantastically edited. I've also no doubt that those who can stomach it (and at least it's not showing anyone being genuinely harmed during the film itself) will probably find the experience is worth it.

But this is not the sort of thing I'd insist that anyone ought to subject themselves to. However, I still think everyone ought to know that this film exists so that, even if they can't handle it, they at least know what it is they are missing.

I suppose my question here is actually a question you can ask a lot of documentary makers: "How could you ever just sit behind the camera and watch?"

It's a question often raised by Kevin Carter's photo of a vulture stalking a dying child in Africa. (Which is a pretty shocking example in itself because Kevin Carter himself claimed that there would be no point helping the child when so much more suffering was happening outside the frame of that photograph. Yet the angry reactions to his picture which raised awareness of the horrors taking place abroad led to him committing suicide. It hardly seems fair to the photographer.)

I don't know how the cameraman documenting "The Act of Killing" managed to keep on filming without revealing his own feelings about the project, but I know it was worth it for the results here. - The filmmaker manages to make a mass murderer surrounded by sycophants finally recognise the gravity of what he has done and to admit not just to others, but to himself, that what he did was wrong. That's quite an achievement. You can actually see the moment where the realisation dawns on him (though he was already experiencing nightmares and there's another figure in the film who is clearly not so haunted by his past actions).

Yeah, kind of riveting. But also bizarre. It's hard to believe that these are real people. For much of the film they seem so oblivious to the horror of their past actions.
sabotabby
Aug. 26th, 2014 02:02 am (UTC)
What the everloving shit did I just watch?

That was beyond brilliant but holy fuck.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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