Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See it at the cinema if you can, if not buy the DVD. Just don't miss it., 16 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Act of Killing [DVD] (DVD)
The other reviews of this film are all excellent and Dipesh's review in particular says most of what I wanted to. However there are a couple of points to add.

Firstly, Dipash said "one of the many shocking scenes in this film is the recreation of an attack upon a village in which families were burned out of their homes and butchered, an uncomfortable situation since it bordered on the exploitative not just from the gangsters but the filmmaker". I also felt this when I saw the film. I was fortunate enough to have a few moments to ask Joshua Oppenheimer about this after the film showing in Liverpool. He said that in fact the children were all very much acting and had been chosen at audition for their ability to cry when required. Oppenheimer said that the only scene that caused him concern was the Chinese gentleman who talked about his father being taken away and executed. The 'gangsters' who he was telling the story to were incredibly dismissive and said something like 'we don't have room for everything in our film'. The Chinese guy is then seen playing the part of a victim. His distress is quite palpable. Apparently, this scene was one of many that were shot by Oppenheimer's colleagues and he didn't see it until well in the production of the film. Once he had witnessed both scenes he realised what had happened and told me that had he seen the part where the guy described what had happened to his family, he would have found him something else to do in the film rather than the distressing 'acting' the part of a victim. So while the village scene may appear on the surface to be the most concerning, in fact it is a brief moment that was genuinely upsetting.

The second point that I found disturbing about this film that has not yet been mentioned, is how, by the end of the film, I was increasingly concerned and upset for Anwar Congo. Here is a man who butchered a thousand people and was proud to boast about his part in the genocide. Almost evil personified. Yet by the end of the film, the realisations of his actions start to break through. Now, here is an old man who by his own vanity comes to understand his lack of morality. I'm sure most people would say 'good', and to an extent, I do too. But I also felt very uncomfortable seeing the realisation as it crept in and then eventually overwhelmed him. This was yet another of the uncomfortable incongruities within this amazing film. Oppenheimer was interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and talked about his concern for Congo and his safety post the release of the film. Congo begins the film by saying how much he has enjoyed his life, drinking, dancing & taking drugs. The reality is perhaps that he has spent his life burying his atrocities with drug & alcohol abuse so that he did not have to feel the emotion of what he had done?

This is an incredible film. Uncomfortable, funny, shocking. Truly a powerful film. I could not stop thinking about it for many days, even weeks after I'd seen it.

Don't miss it, but don't expect to enjoy it, at least, not in the traditional sense.
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