Those who know me know that I seem to have an attraction to disturbing movies.
I just finished viewing a movie which is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen. The Act Of Killing.
In 1965 the government of Indonesia sanctioned a genocide of all known or suspected Communists in their country. Gangsters, thugs and youth groups were used to carry out the extermination of over one million citizens including many undesirables who were falsely accused of the affiliation. To this day, the regime that ordered this atrocity is still more or less in power, and many of the executioners are still alive, thriving in society, many actually in government positions.
Enter Errol Morris and Werner Herzog along with director Josh Openheimer, who bring a film crew, locate a group of former executioners and offer to allow them to make a movie re-enacting and glorifying their actions. For two and a half hours you watch as these people demonstrate their butchering, raping and burning of the thousands of people they were responsible for murdering.
The movie is not their movie, but rather a record of the making of their movie, with shocking interviews and insights. It becomes a journey of dark and perverse catharsis. There were many times I was tempted to stop watching, and then the film would lift another veil and expose another side of this barbarity. You watch as the monstrosity of their actions slowly dawns on them. It plummets to the depths and then calls for an accounting. It is a profoundly emotional experience, layered with meaning and allegory from which we must draw lessons for our own lives and culture. But I warn you, it is not for the feint of heart. It is gut wrenching and repulsive in parts, abstract and bizarre in others.
And yet, I would definitely give this film an A.
Quick note: The subs in the actual movie aren’t as hard to read as those in this trailer.