The cumulative impact is devastating, and very far from a simple Western condemnation of another country’s brutality. In forcing viewers to hear the boasts of genocide’s perpetrators, The Act of Killing puts a harsh spotlight on all celebrations of bloodshed, from Hollywood to the op-ed pages.
Never before has anyone made a documentary like The Act of Killing, and the filmmakers seem at a loss in terms of how to organize the many threads of what they capture...Still, essential and enraging, The Act of Killing is a film that begs to be seen, then never watched again.
The effect is intended to be ghastly – which it certainly is – but I was equally repelled by this film’s conceit. Oppenheimer allows murderous thugs free rein to preen their atrocities, and then fobs it all off as some kind of exalted art thing. This is more than an aesthetic crime; it’s a moral crime.
The Act of Killing is unlike anything I have ever seen. The ease and absurdity in which former gang leaders play out acts of torture and killing is something to behold. Neither funny or redeeming this movie shows us how thin the line is between darkness and light. Cruelty and caring are just different forks in the road.
The Act of Killing has some of the most horrific things humans can do to each other but in the end what was the point? All these men are still walking free and no punishments have be taken against them. The movie just revisits the past without dealing with the now. As a movie, its too long and has an ending that is unintentionally funny.
Ground breaking documentary technique vies with unpleasant content and despicable characters to produce a reaction in me that, whilst acknowledging the film makers skill, has me repulsed by the film itself. That these people, guilty of such atrocious crimes, are still walking around freely, without conscience and living in relative opulence is absolutely abhorrent to me. I understand that the point of documentary film making is to uncover truths and depict life as it is. I also recognise that my strong reaction against the film (or at least the content) is precisely the point, but the casual re-enactments of the crimes seems wrong to me. One character actually states that he would like to be famous. Well, whether for the right or wrong reasons this film certainly gives him his time in the sun.
Disregard for life is also demonstrated with animals when the lead protagonist shows the crew around his stuffed collection proclaiming nonchalantly that he had personally killed the black Rhino, whilst dismissively pointing out that the species was near extinction.
Content aside, the print under review is the director's cut which at 159 minutes is excessively long and when not shocking has extremely boring interludes, with some edits appearing just chaotic. The last 20 minutes or so when Anwar Cong, one of the killers, shows remorse by crying and later gagging (as if to vomit) is just an insult to all his victims as well as being extremely distasteful.
I am aware of all the superlatives that the documentary has been receiving, both written and oral, and it must be said that the audience that I viewed the film with stayed in their seats well into the end credits and left very subdued, but I did approach the film reluctantly and with caution.
The use of John Barry's beautiful song 'Born Free' emphasises the ugliness of everything else going on, I don't dispute that it is powerful film making, but I also can't dispute that I hated it!
Going into The Act of Killing I expected to be shocked and appalled and I was but not for the reasons I imagined. A fearless look at a group of people alive today and their inner most thoughts about a dark time in Indonesian history. The kicker? These people are monsters and director Joshua Oppenheimer is unfortunately giving them a voice. The film follows Oppenheimer as he interviews a group of Indonesian death squad executioners responsible for the mass communist genocide that took place in 1965, a horrific period in Indonesian history carried out by these so called subjects. The film is crass and lacks any kind of remorse as it ridicules the children of those who died, shows the wonderful lives that these killers now have and glorifies an action that took over a million lives. The Act of Killing is a disgraceful picture designed to disturb as to inspire action. However Oppenheimer must know the futility of his struggle and the inevitability of his failure so his creation of this rubbish only serves to entertain his interviewees. Not only does the film give them a pulpit to shout out their propaganda but it also treats it all as alright, a necessary evil. The Act of Killing breaks the cardinal rule of documentary film making, it doesn't have anything in it worth telling the rest of the world, it doesn't have a purpose beyond mocking the dead.