The Guardian


The Act of Killing

Blending interview footage with staged reconstructions and surreal musical sequences, this soul-shaking investigation of a legacy of brutal killings in Indonesia from directors Joshua Oppenheimer and Christine Cynn (along with an anonymous third director) gazes long into the abyss, and asks – in Herzogian fashion – how art might mediate between awful truth and stunned silence. A follow-up film, The Look of Silence, added sociopolitical context, creating a companion piece of equal import, but it’s The Act of Killing that has haunted my dreams and nightmares since I first saw it, and tried to write about its awesome power. Elsewhere in 2013, Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity showcased the breadth of film-making in the UK (both qualified for Bafta’s best British film award), while Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave was the toast of the London film festival.