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Scratch47's avatar

Scratch47

Wow. I've been looking for motivation lately and this gave me, in its own frightening way, perhaps an ultimate kind of motivation (or is that ultimatum).
First off, visually, it's supreme. Bizarre juxtapositions and pattern interrupts are peppered throughout this with the force of shrapnel, carrying an ironic and sober moral gravity all their own. A pair of Indonesian girls smile at a gambling hall whilst a mass murderer sits beside them in a banal, glum haze. Genocidal paramilitaries pretend to cut off heads with hacksaws whilst dressed as drag queens with feather boas. It blows the mind on both the implicit and explicit levels. This is real horror.
Tonally, it starts as merely unsettling and then builds from there off the back of a kind of nervous laughter, as the case builds against the cast. 45 minutes in, the enormity of what I was watching hit me like a ton of bricks: that these men are normal people, they feel no remorse, and they are gladly supported and applauded by their people, media, and governments in some of the most vile and excruciating crimes humanly possible: essentially, this is a textbook analysis of how a class and state - and YOU - can be utterly perverted much like Nazi Germany, and whilst this has been explored before in film, here the emotional horrors are mapped out like a fearless game of 'chicken'. That alone makes it the most important film of the year, even decade, but it also carries remarkable aesthetic value. It also helps to bring the most popular Hollywood morality plays (eg. the Dark Knight trilogy, Seven) into sharp perspective, yet the nature of the reflecting camera eye here are both more blunt and subtle, as you watch some of those featured gain the vaguest flicker of a moral compass amidst the re-enacted decapitations. There are countless scenes here that will make you not only shudder, but gasp, and it carries more hallucinogenic power than a bag of mushrooms. The utter emptiness of some of the media, in their attempts to politically brainwash and pervert the youth, for example, is a wonder - and yes I draw parallels to modern America, as it takes ominous, solid steps towards this kind of sponsored totality with minimal resistance, and in fact applause to the emergence of the kind of morally vacuous space where privacy and warmth are empty words and illegal war and genocide almost become ethically plausible. Only at the end does the main character, through all his inured scarring and retardation, finally see the truth.

This film has the power to change one's life, one's way of monitoring their own behaviour. Sociopaths form 6% of the population, that's 1 in 16 people. Chances are you know one or more of them; persons who have a flawless artifice of pleasantry that hides an empty, cauterizing and sadistic nihilism, blind to warmth and willfully arrogant with cruelty. Honestly, I expect that the vast majority of my society as a Brit could be persuaded to make a similar turn. How can you say, given this work and (as one example) how the media stirs up anti-immigration furore to a practically racist degree, that I am being cynical? To face the evils in our world today we must be both fearless and unified, but as much against ourselves in examination with the weighed and accepted consequence of our actions. I fully expect to be looking over my shoulders in more ways than one, more so from this point on, vigilant to the subtle monstrosities that can lurk in a people, in loved ones, and neighbors, and how quickly moral standing can be abandoned to a thin justification of atrocity - or even less than that. It represents a nadir of numb monstrosity that should batter the audience to a drugged pulp. Moreover, it should cast a fearsome light on your own morality and whether you consider yourself a 'good person'. The message is a simple and popular one, repeated loudly and often in many shades: look deeply within yourself, see what consequences you can accept, and what you as an individual and society must change - but you must smash your echo chamber of belief because your life depends on it. Play it in schools, in churches, and often. A cinematic flashbang. Highest possible recommendation.

EDIT: So this lost the 'Best Documentary' Oscar to '20 Feet From Stardom' this year, in a night filled with what I felt were otherwise truly deserving wins. I haven't seen the other film yet but I can't imagine how it could have surpassed the sheer impact, power, importance and intensity of this work. It could be said that this was too strong and controversial to swing the minds of mainstream voters. That said, this work is truly its own advertisement and does not need a cultural seal of approval to validate its points, in fact it transcends that forum altogether. I'll continue to promote this as the greatest documentary of the millennium so far.
5 years 5 months ago
RoboAwesome's avatar

RoboAwesome

Okay guys, we all need to work together to make sure aliens never see this movie.
4 years 9 months ago
Rodney Dangerfield's avatar

Rodney Dangerfield

Amazing documentary, one of the best I've ever seen. The best docs manage to invoke genuine deep emotional responses and this achieves that many times over, not only for the viewer but the way in which this journey turned Anwar Congo from a man who was cocky and bragged about his crimes to someone who seemed to show genuine remorse and shame.

Apart from the obvious aspect of hundreds of thousands of people who were executed, one of the most disturbing things is the brazen pride the government and the paramilitaries have in the genocide that was committed. The manner in which the chat show host rallies support and celebration for their crimes, even in the manner of how some were executed. Repulsive.
5 years 4 months ago
monty's avatar

monty

Never mind that it lost out to 20 Feet From Stardom, a fine and inoffensive piece of fluff. That's okay. Awards are only temporary.Truly great films like The Act of Killing last forever
3 years 9 months ago
brokenface's avatar

brokenface

astonishing, bizarre & extremely disturbing film. I think I'm safe in saying you won't have seen anything quite like this before. must watch.
5 years 4 months ago
invisiblecities's avatar

invisiblecities

anwar has the best shirts
5 years 4 months ago
The_Comatorium's avatar

The_Comatorium

What makes a great documentary? I used to think it was just the ability to find great footage and develop the story around it. Lately it has been the ability to portray humanity for what it really is…a continually evolving machine of good and evil. It helps when the subject matter is interesting to the viewer but what I want most in a documentary is a view of life on this planet that is not normally seen and certainly not understood. Joshua Oppenheimer knocked the genre on its ass this year when he released “The Act of Killing”.

The film centers are Anwar Congo, a former deathsquad leader who claims to have killed over one thousand people from 1965 to 1967. Over one million people were murdered during this time period. They were killed when the military took over the government and claimed that anybody practicing communism would be put to death without trial. Some of these people were actually communist but most were killed on the slightest whim by a death squad/youth member if they thought they were a communist. Some Chinese residents were killed on the spot just because they were Chinese. These killings were not only allowed but completely backed by the national government. Villages were burned down, women were raped, and the murders were of brutal and sadistic fashion. The people who carried out these murders are not behind bars. They were not put to death. They are the stars of this film.

When I used to watch the History Channel before it became a reality television network for rednecks without teeth or clothes that fit, documentaries and mini series would run constantly of WW2. Nazi’s marching up and down streets with hate in their eyes backed by the screaming lunatic that was Adolf Hitler filled the screen. We all know about the Nazis and what they did. I’m not going to explain that. I bring this up because what is happening in Indonesia right now is the little brother to what happened in WW2. The big difference here is that the Nazis are no longer in control. The same regime that put these murders into effect is still in charge today and the general public still laud these murderers as heroes. This backwards ass fantasy world is alive and well and brought to light by Openheimer and his crew. They follow Congo, a charismatic old man, and his partner Herman, a younger and more chaotic man as they recall their past and bizarrely reenact these stories on camera. They have convinced themselves that they are going to be on the big screen flaunting their stories of murder for all to see and appreciate. Bizarre is not a good enough word to describe these reenactments. They are completely surreal and whacked out fantasy garble unfolding before Oppenheimer and his crew. The crew, who are being told these stories of murder as if they were daily anecdotes occurring on the way to work, have to shut off their intuition to interfere and keep the camera focused on their subjects. The end result is one of best collection of truly terrifying real characters that even the great fiction writers of our day couldn’t come up with.

The film is shot through mostly steadicam shots fixated on the subjects at hand. There are no talking heads dictating what the viewer is going to experience. The film travels through one nightmare to the next as these men are paraded around town by governing officials and asked to be on television talks shows where they boast about their countless murders to cheering fans and adoration. Reenactments occur in the streets with actors being cast on the spot and who seem to be forced into portraying the victims of these murders during their last moments. Children are crying and some are laughing during these “scenes”. It’s as if the children don’t know how to feel since they were not around to witness the actual horror but are instead told through stories. The emotion on their faces goes completely unnoticed by the youth leaders and former gangsters as most of the children are asked why they are so upset. I mean, it was only an act!

Like the Nazis before them and their northern neighbors, the North Koreans, the entire population of Indonesia is either completely brainwashed into thinking this genocide was essential to their history or are scared to mention the fact that their government is made up of a bunch of war criminals. I asked what is essential in a good documentary and the answer is still up for debate, but there is no doubting that “The Act of Killing” is a one of a kind look into a culture that is centered around killing and yet sees no problem with it at all. It’s a chilling film that must be seen and can be seen if you have a Netflix account.

5/5

www.thoughtsfromthebooth.com
4 years 10 months ago
Torgo's avatar

Torgo

Fascinating and with a bold concept, but for me not entirely as disturbing as expected.

I don't know what I'm missing with the 115-minute version compared to the 159-minutes director's cut, but I felt some lengths within those 2 hours. Maybe a little editing of 10-20 minutes could make this film even more effective.

Still bizarre and one of the documentaries to recommend to everyone. spoiler
4 years 11 months ago
Limbesdautomne's avatar

Limbesdautomne

I would like to buy this film not L'Acte de tuer.
10 months 3 weeks ago
Earring72's avatar

Earring72

Gripping, disturbing, shocking documentary! Must see
3 years 2 months ago
Nibbler's avatar

Nibbler

Wow. So... bizarre.
4 years 9 months ago
armyofshadows's avatar

armyofshadows

Really and truly amazing, one of the best documentaries I've seen, and I say that quite sincerely. This film looks into the heart of unspeakable evil, evil that feels no remorse--but by the end, a tiny glint of humanity, or regret, is glimpsed. It is beautiful and essential.
4 years 11 months ago
the3rdman's avatar

the3rdman

One of the most extraordinary films I've seen. Essential viewing. Since Scratch47's review is quite good I'll leave it at that.
5 years 3 months ago
Paulorsadv's avatar

Paulorsadv

Amazing.
5 years 3 months ago
TalkingElvish's avatar

TalkingElvish

Brilliantly put Scratch 47. I'm still reeling from this. An incredible, unique film.
5 years 4 months ago

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