Every so often documentaries will have follow pieces, rarely do those sequels prove to be more powerful than their predecessors. The Look of Silence, the 2014 successor to The Act of Killing, is one such film.
This time Joshua Oppenheimer directs the camera towards Adi, a man whose older brother was slain during the events chronicled in the first movie, as he confronts those involved in the Indonesian purging of communist in the late 1960’s. Because many of the participants in the slaughter are still in power Adi must maneuver carefully and in anonymity. Adi’s job as an optician provides the viewer a feeling of unease as he tests and prescribes glasses for a former death squad member while asking about their role in the slayings.
The even-tempered resolve of Adi to understand not only the acts but also the enactors of such horrendous violence is astounding. We see Adi as he is shown interview footage of those involved in the first film and as they recount their deeds and he is further compelled to understand their near flippant attitudes. Adi is given the chance to interview many of these people and more often than not keeps a level of composure that in itself is stunning.
An equally fascinating aspect of the movie is the former death squads’ members and facilitators. Once confronted by someone personally affected by their actions we see an array of reactions. For most it is indignation, for a few it is tearful pack-peddling, for all it is an avoidance of culpability. The argument that the actions of past are best forgotten is one that is echoed by perpetrator and victim alike, this dangerous opinion also serves as fuel for Adi’s resolve.
The Look of Silence is a brave look into the nastier side of humanity that is often glossed over. Artistically the film is one of minimalist presentation and serves to help convey it’s contents unfettered. The Look of Silence‘s ability to address not only loss but also endurance makes it necessary watching for a more complete picture of the human condition.