The Act of Killing

Rated NR 122 minutes 2013

This documentary is one strange animal. Former members of Indonesian death squads, who killed millions accused of communism during their horrific regime, are asked to re-create some of the death scenarios they oversaw during their murderous days. The men re-enact death scenes utilizing various Hollywood genres (P.O.W. camp movies, gangster films, huge and odd dance numbers, etc.) and it’s weird and revelatory. Some of the men get obviously swept up in the performances; it is clear that their minds are racked with guilt. Others seem more worried about the authenticity of the scenes from a moviemaking standpoint. If anything, the whole setup results in some astonishingly open discussions about the act of killing, and the mindset these men put themselves in to follow their orders. It’s an uncomfortable movie, especially during disturbing moments like the re-creation of beheadings and strangulations. It’s also a fascinating movie on many levels, especially when the men try to rationalize past actions during frank interviews. You’ll never hear the song “Born Free” the same way again.

Film Credits

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and Anonymous

Producer: Signe Sorenson, Joram ten Brink, Anne Kohncke, Michael Uwemedino, Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous, Errol Morris and Werner Herzog

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