View Full Version : The Act of Killing (2012)

09-02-2013, 07:35 PM
A documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.


10-02-2013, 08:53 AM
That does sound cracking.

10-02-2013, 03:43 PM
this looks unreal, good call.

11-02-2013, 02:37 PM
Anwar and his friends developed a new, more efficient system for exterminating communists. A system more humane, less sadistic, and without excessive violence.

That's one chillingly amusing description of genocide, right there. But even though Herzog and Errol Morris have signed on as exec producers, I'm still inclined think this may be an elaborate hoax. You have to consider that, even if it turns out to be untrue. The whole premise of the film is like something from Brass Eye. I hope it's not a hoax.

02-07-2013, 01:28 AM
i really want to see it

04-07-2013, 11:22 AM
I saw it last night. It is fucking nuts. A film like no other.

More later, but if you get the chance, go and see it. I've never seen anything quite like it. I saw the directors cut at the ICA - apparently the theatrical version is a lot shorter (157m vs 111, IIRC) and I'm glad I did.

05-07-2013, 07:18 AM
First off, I'm conscious that writing in a fanlike way about a film that documents the aftermath of an atrocity is incongruous to say the least. But it is an amazing, horrific film. Writing about a film like this, one is often tempted to just narrate the footage but I don't want to spoilerise it for anyone ("Hey! No spoilers for the mass mudrder documentary!")I didn't know a lot about it before I went in, or the situation in Indonesia, so I think being "raw" it hit me pretty hard and confused me. I had real problems working out what was going on, and if what I was seeing was actually real or staged. My confusion was added to by lack of voiceover, or directorial comment. It felt like a confusion of realities - the interviews with the killers themselves and their narrative, the documentation of the current paramilitaries in Indonesia, lots of very artful, funny, everyday footage and the utterly strange filmic recreations scripted and staged by the killers. These often tripped over from the comic to the terrifying in the space of a few frames - one scene in particular felt to me like a powerful evocation of Kali. I read a review yesterday that said "it left me dumbfounded" and yep, that's pretty much how I felt.

08-07-2013, 04:39 PM
I interviewed the director a couple of weeks back. One of the surprises i had is that the guy who spoke the lines "thank you for killing me and sending me to heaven" is an economics professor in an Indonesian college.

11-07-2013, 09:00 PM
Funny thing is it feels like a documentary about Anwar's movie about his experience in the genocide- but as far as I know this is the film and the scenes orchestrated by the actual killers weren't released in a standalone feature. Would I be right in saying that the extra long directors cut explains why the second main character spends half his time in drag?

11-07-2013, 10:13 PM
One of the main criticisms you could level at the film is it's lack of exposition and contextualising. I doesn't really explain a lot about the genocide in Indonesia before dropping you in at the deep end, and similarly it doesn't explain how the film came to take place, nor the backstory behind the film-within-a-film (I think he references it, but it's not explained in depth). Having to pull the strands of the story and situation together was one of the things that made the film "work" for me, but my ignorance shouldnt' really function as a film's selling point.

12-07-2013, 08:02 AM
Saw it last night and agree with pretty much all of the above. I thought it could have been compacted to contain more material in less time. As mentioned before, I would have liked to know how the whole situation of those dudes agreeing to reenact their murders came about. And why the fat dude spends most of his time in drag.

Some of the best and most powerful moments, I thought, were when it reflected upon the influence of the west on the murders. How movies weren't just in the back of the antagonists' minds, they started out as ticket touts at American movie theatres, and idolised the gangsters -- "free men" -- in them. Also the scene where the guy is running for office, copying Obama on TV, was a nice touch, although it seemed a little too good to be true. I did know a little about the situation before the film, and how the US, Britain and Australia basically supported the coup and slaughter of communists just because to their mind, anything at that point was better than communism. A quote from Australian prime minister at the time Harold Holt: "With 500,000 to a million communist sympathisers knocked off...I think it's safe to assume a reorientation has taken place." I would have liked to know a little more about why these guys hated communists so vehemently.

13-07-2013, 10:48 AM
I would have liked to know a little more about why these guys hated communists so vehemently.

Yeah, given that bar the Chinese killings there was no ethic/tribal aspect to it you almost have to fall back on the 'the customs officials impounded our Hollywood cinema reels' excuse. Which is small beer obviously.

Plus- maybe I'm wrong here- but I'd imagine that much more people were killed in rural parts of Indonesia than in the cities, and the film didn't focus too much on the countryside. Maybe that's just because the two main characters were mainly active in the capital.

19-07-2013, 12:17 PM
perhaps as i had read so much about it before i saw it, i found the film a little bit smug. there was one good intervention when the director says the victims felt worse than congo thought they did as they knew they were going to die, and you see a bit of reflection going on inside him, but the whole film just seemed like a bit of a one-note stitch up. it was stunning in just how candid some of the guys were (eg - talking about rape) but i really felt it lacked context, and i wouldnt have minded hearing from the victims side more too. obv i know thats not the focus but it would have meant less of the simplistic 'oh look how casually sick psycopaths are'. while i dont think they deserve our sympathy, im not sure the film did enough to give them an opportunity to repent (not that they looked like they might do) or for them or the audience to get a deeper understanding beyond 'oh look, these psychos have no remorse'. did we learn enough about why their behaviour was so easy to believe in and why theyve never been forced to think about why it might be 'bad'? im not sure. seemed a bit off. seems the type of film a certain kind of viewer likes to see to have their prejudices reinforced. i know a lot of docu directors do that kind of subtly/distantly didactic filmmaking, but someone like anand pathwardhan for example does it in a way that seems different, where there is at least some attempt to show different sides, even as he is clearly making his subjects (in government for example) appear as deluded and out of touch as they really are (i mention him as his films are on at the tate at the moment).

wasnt surprised to learn how influential the hollywood gangster films were - same thing you read about old jamaican gangsters.

01-08-2013, 04:36 PM
was a bit dissapointed to be honest. felt pretty vapid overall, the ending was very affecting. But yea the content was seemingly just look at how unremorseful this psychopath is..interspersed with quirky shots of indonesian music vid done on higher end cameras (allthough i loved the shots on that weird fish mouth). Ive been in Indonesia the past three months and there are no official screenings as its been sanctioned i think, but to be honest not sure it would have any great effect on indonesian youths interest or understanding on the matter. And on the question of why they hated communists so much, well its a bit misleading idea they got aacross i think. Majority of Indonesians dislike the chinese and its nothing to do with communism. Incidentally atheists were getting killed aswell (as possible communists), and despite the overall huge amount of religious tolerance being Atheist is still a bit incomprehensible/shocking to most in indonesia.

Local Authority
07-08-2013, 06:55 PM
It's a shame they didn't go into the history of it, as someone said earlier? I guess they were aiming to mainly document the men and the act of creating the films though. It lacked the wtfness I was expecting and wasn't that overwhelming. Although it did make me question the morality of these men repeatedly.

Also I believe the fat one only dressed up to add humour to the scenes, as a sort of in-joke. They didn't explain it though but from the way he was treated, thats the way it would seem.

03-09-2013, 09:43 PM
Agree with a lot of whats been said about lack of context ect. it kinda felt unfinished at times. the end and a fair few other moments made it well worth the watch though imo

03-06-2014, 12:59 PM
In the same sense, we can watch The Act of Killing without really caring too much about what happens or has happened: it is only brown people dying and nothing more. The Act of Killing is not a balanced, unbiased film. Instead, it takes the side of the killers in a conflict scarcely remembered in North American communities that have no ties to Indonesia. It does not challenge the killers thoroughly and instead relies on racist mockery. It does not challenge the United States’ support of the killings and American hegemony and instead allows for a sense of western American (and even white) superiourity. It does not give us a look at the events of 1965 from an unbiased perspective, nor the aftermath (a perspective which is already lacking in North America). Instead, we are offered a view of the fun, happy lives of the killers, who we can gently judge and laugh at. Less than a film revealing why killers might be so proud of their actions, The Act of Killing is, more than anything, a documentation of white American entitlement.


says what i thought better than i could.