When Joshua Oppenheimer released his 2012 documentary The Act Of Killing into the world, the hard-hitting film was met with powerful reactions. For the director, giving space to Indonesian death-squad leaders to re-enact their mass-killings in whichever dramatic fashion they chose was unexpected and essentially unplanned. Initially intended as a film focused on survivors, Oppenheimer discovered that this approach actually endangered them still, and so centred the effort on the perpetrators instead. In this way, his latest film – The Look Of Silence – is a closely related companion piece, as it centres around a family that survived the Indonesian genocide, and finds themselves confronting those that murdered their loved one.
With Werner Herzog and Errol Morris as executive producers, The Look Of Silence is shaping up to be no less challenging than its cinematic older sibling. The official synopsis is as follows:
“Through Joshua Oppenheimer’s work filming perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered, and the identity of the men who killed him. The youngest brother is determined to break the spell of silence and fear under which the survivors live, and so confronts the men responsible for his brother’s murder – something unimaginable in a country where the killers remain in power.”
While it is inevitable that audiences will discuss at length the themes behind Oppenheimer’s latest project – particularly in the current global political climate – it is, perhaps, best left to the director himself to detail the true weight of the subject matter at hand:
“The Act Of Killing exposed consequences for all of us when we build our everyday reality on terror and lies. The Look Of Silence explores what it is like to be a survivor in such a reality. Making any film about survivors of genocide is to walk into a minefield of clichés, most of which serve to create a heroic (if not saintly) protagonist with whom we can identify, thereby offering false reassurance that, in the moral catastrophe of atrocity, we are nothing like perpetrators. But presenting survivors as saintly in order to reassure ourselves that we are good is to use survivors to deceive ourselves. It is an insult to any survivor’s experience, and does nothing to help us understand what it means to survive atrocity, what it means to live a life shattered by mass violence, and to be silenced by terror. To navigate this minefield of clichés, we have had to explore silence itself. The result, The Look Of Silence is, I hope, a poem about a silence borne of terror – a poem about the necessity of breaking that silence, but also about the trauma that comes when silence is broken. Maybe the film is a monument to silence – a reminder that although we want to move on, look away and think of other things, nothing will make whole what has been broken. Nothing will wake the dead. We must stop, acknowledge the lives destroyed, strain to listen to the silence that follows.”
The Look Of Silence will screen at the 2014 Venice Film Festival, and will be released into cinemas in summer 2015. You can check out the first clip below.
Source: The Playlist