The Look of Silence (5 stars)

The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer is at the helm of another remarkable documentary

Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer follows the groundbreaking, multi-award-winning The Act of Killing with another tremendous achievement. The location is still Indonesia but this time the focus is on optometrist Adi as he confronts the leaders of death squads about their brutal execution of his brother Ramli in 1965. Many of these men live close by and are still in positions of power. In the director’s own words, The Look of Silence 'explores what it is like to be a survivor in such a reality.'

The images of murderers re-enacting their crimes will be embedded in your mind if you have already seen The Act of Killing. This companion piece is no less moving or painful, despite treading familiar ground. The grief of the survivors and the legacy of a history of violence is communicated via the anguished gaze of Adi, as he watches footage from the surreal and sickening original documentary.

Yet Adi’s quest to the truth is a dignified one. He begins with a gentle questioning session as he carries out an eye exam on a frail old man, who we soon find out is responsible for genocide. But the deeper he probes the more fearless he becomes and, in turn, the more frightening the film becomes. On more than one occasion his life is threatened, further demonstrating what a courageous step he has taken.

Born two years after the death of his brother, Adi has always lived in the shadow of carnage and we meet his ageing mother and father who, to this very day, cannot shake the impact of the atrocities they have lived through. But Oppenheimer is mindful to not only document Adi's struggle but to also relay his hopes for the future of his country and the lives of his children. Years of filming, research and gaining trust pay off impressively in this terrifying, tense and essential documentary.

Selected release from Fri 12 Jun.

The Look of Silence

  • 5 stars
  • 2014
  • 1h 39min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer

Documentary about Indonesian death squads, from the perspective of optometrist Adi, whose brother was killed by a squad in 1965. Oppenheimer follows Adi's quest for the truth and conveys not just his courage in the face of death threats but his hopes for the future. Terrifying, tense and essential.