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A deeply resonant 'Silence'.

So singular a high-wire achievement is "The Act of Killing," Joshua Oppenheimer's blistering 2012 documentary about the Indonesian communist purge of the 1960s, that following it up so shortly with a second film on the subject might seem, on paper, complacent. However, in "The Look of Silence," an altogether stunning companion piece that shifts its emphasis from the perpetrators of the atrocity to their victims, all the while maintaining its predecessor's ornate moral complexities, keen sociological shading and occasional, devastating jabs of humor, there are as few safe moves as there are false notes. U.S. rights have again been snapped up by Drafthouse Films; it's hard to imagine any distributor that successfully took a chance on Oppenheimer last time around passing on this equally formidable docu, which will be accumulating fest berths and trophies well into 2015.

Evidently conceived as an accompanying project all along, "The Look of Silence" is nonetheless a freestanding work, its lyrical tone and measured rhythm entirely distinct from those of "The Act of Killing." That said, its refined aesthetic does nothing to mollify its crushing emotional impact, as the force of history is brought home to the guilty and innocent alike.

Oppenheimer has constructed a more concentrated, character-oriented narrative than that of "Killing," with mild-mannered 44-year-old optician Adi its effective protagonist. The son of impoverished parents who lost their elder son, Ramli, to the carnage in 1966, Adi was born shortly after the tragedy, and has lived his life stifled by his own incomplete knowledge of the events that permanently altered the fate of his family. With Oppenheimer as his guide, Adi sets out to identify and confront Ramli's murderers, as well as their own sheltered families.

Some of the most shocking material in "The Look of Silence" is rooted in the present day, as Oppenheimer uncovers the level of misinformation and extremeright rhetoric still being sowed in the population by the authorities: Adi listens, half-amused and half-aghast, as his young son cheerfully recites propaganda from a recent school history lesson. Elsewhere, more than one perpetrator relates the widely disseminated myth that drinking victims' blood would stave off insanity. Oppenheimer cannily includes archive footage to underline just how little the popular perspective has shifted in nearly half a century. (As evidence, one need only consider the number of anonymously billed crew members in the credits.)

The Look of Silence Director:

Joshua Oppenheimer

CREDITS: (DOCUMENTARY--DENMARK-INDONESIA-NORWAYFINLAND-U.K.) A Final Cut for Real presentation of an Anonymous, Making Movies Oy, Piraya Film production in association with Spring Films. (International sales: Cinephil, Tel Aviv.) PRODUCED BY Signe Byrge Sorensen. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Andre Singer, co-producers, Anonymous, Kaarle Aho, Torstein Crude, Bjarte Morner Tveit. directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. CO-DIRECTOR. Anonymous, camera (color, HD), Lars Skree; editor, Niels Pagh Andersen; SOUND, Henrik Carnov; SUPERVISING SOUND EDITOR. Carnov; VISUAL EFFECTS PRODUCER. Tom Chr. Lilletvedt; VISUAL EFFECTS, Nordisk Film Shortcut; assistant DIRECTORS, Anonymous, Anonymous, Anonymous, Anonymous, Anonymous. REVIEWED AT Venice Film Festival (competing), Aug. 27,2014. (Also in Toronto Film Festival--TIFF Docs; Telluride Film Festival.) RUNNING TIME: 99 MIN.

GUY LODGE

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Title Annotation:The Look of Silence
Author:Lodge, Guy
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Sep 2, 2014
Words:513
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