The Look of Silence

Posted in Reviews, Top Stories by - November 30, 2015
The Look of Silence

History: it shapes our future. One minor detail can be changed and the entire story is altered. A NEW history is born. Before one knows it, the cycle has begun and there is no going back to the way it once was. What do we see AND hear in The Look of Silence? First, a soulless, cold gaze, staring off into the unknowing eyes of an individual with a twisted, demented sense-of-humor. One is alive and the other is dead. One is living the present day with one foot in the past and the other is ONLY in the past because he has no tomorrow.

The setting is Indonesia. The year was 1965. It was a turbulent time for the nation, as a rebel army sought to overthrow a “Godless,” Communist regime for a “God-fearing,” Democratic regime. In the United States of America, we had our own Civil War, which reshaped the future of this country forever. Millions of lives were lost and so we choose to believe that their deaths were not in vain. Very similarly for Indonesia, countless, “innocent” lives were lost. The widespread mentality for the victors AND their victims is to let the past be in the past, but if the past dictates what we have in the present and can continue to control the future, how else can the future be changed without delving INTO the past?

“The Look of Silence” is the second of two thematic documentarian pieces for director, Josh Oppenheimer. The first was “The Act of Killing.” The acclaim for both films has been stunningly large and Oppenheimer has been able to ride the wave of notoriety all the way up to the US Congress. When THIS film was screened to members of the Congress, he boldly asked them to acknowledge our role in the “genocide” of Indonesia, at that time, as the US reportedly sent millions of dollars worth of weapons to the rebel army, which overthrew the government and laid waste to so many citizens who were not directly involved with the Communist Party. Keep it in mind, that although Josh Oppenheimer is a United States citizen, he currently resides in Denmark, the country that financed a great portion of this film.

The cinematic performance, credited to Lars Skree, should not be overlooked. It is a quiet, subtle picture, which is conveyed, but is still rather effective. There is nothing overtly graphic about the visuals in “The Look of Silence,” but the descriptive language throughout the film paints a very red picture, quite literally. Each person of importance, who is a part of the process, has his or her moment of silence in front of the camera and THAT is what tells a much deeper meaning of the history being examined and the people who were directly impacted by what happened. You probably will not turn your face from the screen to avoid seeing the images of death and violence that are not there, but your jaw may, very well, drop, at the sheer audacity of what you hear and see, coming from the mouths of these individuals. As the Bible says, “It is not what we put inside of our bodies, which defiles us, but what comes out from our hearts, which defiles us.” Let it be known, there was very little about the film, which seemed to draw any form of sympathy for the politics of Communism or the religion of Islam. The greatest irony was a moment, early on, when a room full of children, at a public school (funded by the government), was obviously being handfed a portion of propaganda, in the form of Democracy, which is more along the lines of something, which most Americans would consider very UN-Democratic. As I once heard James Bond say to his superior, “The people change, but the lies do not.” The point is, evil is evil, no matter WHOM or WHAT is part of it.

There is no doubt that this project has taken up a lot of time for the director. He has traversed the world, earning great support, even from the community within the country of Indonesia. Certain voices have potentially gone unnoticed for generations and this film might just supply the means for which those voices can finally be heard. While I cannot speculate the motives behind some of the people involved in this work, I can surmise my OWN views and see how they relate to the content of “The Look of Silence.”

I feel that while war and bloodshed are inevitable for humanity, the consequences are, also, unavoidable. I could see that no matter what has been done to hurt those around us, there is always a chance for forgiveness, in time, and anything, which can pull us together, nationally or globally, is worth fighting for (no pun intended). Fighting is not just limited to guns and bombs. The people behind the film have shown that. Their lives were certainly at risk, but they knew what was potentially at stake and they did not sway. As Bruce Lee once said, “The usefulness of a cup is its emptiness.” Therefore, try and keep an open and impressionable mind or a resilient, child-like faith. Either way, you might be naïve, but you might also learn a lot more about your surroundings. The more we know about our surroundings, the wiser and more useful we can become to others. The only thing left for ME to wonder: is it too late for “The Look of Silence” to be noticed at the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards? It has certainly been seen in plenty of other places, so why not these?

Official Trailer:

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