22/05/2018

The Look Of Silence - Humanity, Humility, Humiliation

Quick Thoughts: The Look Of Silence (Senyap, 2014)


Made by Joshua Oppenheimer, this is the Indonesian film of the series.


Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing, which is certainly the centre-piece of his retrospective documentation of the 1964-65 killings in Indonesia, is one of the greatest achievements ever made in the realm of documentary. However, the film feels incomplete. It feels incomplete because it is a success. The Act of Killing is made complete, however, with the failure that is The Look of Silence.

Where The Act of Killing succeeds in getting the perpetrators of heinous crimes to confess and reflect upon their pasts, revealing their simultaneous humanity and inhumanity, The Look of Silence sees the victims of the crimes seek a response and all fail in securing anything of much substance at all. And such seems to reflect the reality of the situation in modern-day Indonesia; truth now floats semi-freely, but no one can grasp and deal with it; the facts are there, but no one is willing to take responsibility for them. In watching The Look of Silence, you're made to question how anyone could take full responsibility for such monstrous crimes and in turn pay just penance, but, these questions quickly fade away and are replaced with a vacuum of humiliating inertia. And I believe that such is the key failure of The Look of Silence - again, this failure does not mean that the documentary is bad, rather, it seemingly reveals the true nature of the film's subject. The Look of Silence is about displaced shame and unjustly inherited humiliation with truth somehow shedding all that is shameful about history and the lies weighing down the present victims with impossible humiliation - so much so that humiliation and humility come to mean one and the same as we stare at the vacant and devastatingly human powerlessness in victims' faces.

Little can really be said about The Look of Silence as all that is it is encapsulated by the title; this documentary exudes dumbfoundedness and the best any audience member can do is look at it.

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