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With Jim Sabatini

The Look of Silence

The Look of Silence

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing graphic descriptions of atrocities and inhumanity
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: July 17, 2015 Released by: Drafthouse Films

A racking, cannier corollary to Joshua Oppenheimer's  2013 Oscar-nominated documentary The Act of Killing (with executioners recreating their movie reveries) is arguably a more unnerving look into Indonesia's brutality to rid itself of communism a half century ago with its share of taut conversation.

The Look of Silence (up for many year-end awards in the documentary category) has a haunting, contemplative potency in the relationships of people who see themselves as national heroes to a survivor, almost functioning as a cleric. In trying to get to the heart of the matter, early middle-aged Adi Rukun, an optometrist, uncovers eerie similarities to World War II atrocities which offers an eponymous pointed irony. Oppenheimer is often in bravura union with his editor and lensing craftsman to bring immediacy and emotional resonance to a nation unwilling to become unglued from its horrifying past.

Adi's older brother Ramli was publicly murdered by those in power now and uses some professional, audacious cunning (how about a free eye exam?) to see how talking heads can easily lead the masses to identify a scapegoat who talks to a boastful, yet surprised Dracula-type death doer, the 72-year-old Inong, among many to accede to his government's demands. The subtle steadfastness of a pariah lets the ripostes (including dissents) become more jaw-dropping, considering the nature of the monstrous admissions. Especially when one woman eavesdrops with trepidation in learning about a father's cold abomination.

The secretive approach of the filmmaking even when brightening the look around Adi's family underscores the callousness and inhumanity when it came to communism that still pervades a society right down to its history for schoolchildren. An edifying Adi wants to get the real, timeless message across to his children, while still grieving mother Rohani believes justice will come to the machete-wielding after this life and to let them be. Though she becomes more embittered when finding out about her octogenarian brother's former line of work.

Smiling on camera on and much deserving of accolades is what those Adi finds hard to exonerate with the apparent source of loathing having a pronounced Cold War kick to it. A gutsy conflict for obdurate ones becomes a strikingly salient well-researched scrutiny in a significantly suggestive The Look of Silence.

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