TIFF12: My Thoughts on The Act of Killing

In Indonesia during the 1960s there was a large genocide, in which the paramilitary group in charge of the country decided to kill off anyone they accused to be a communist.

The Act of Killing follows a group of people who committed these murders.  They are working with the director to reenact their killings in the style of the Hollywood films that inspired them.

It’s obvious that the film is meant to be shocking somewhat.  Many of these individuals are actually proud of the murders they committed and they repeatedly comment that the term “gangster” means “free man.”  On camera, the central subject Anwar Congo lightheartedly demonstrated how he killed people with a length of wire.

The film is presented for the most part in a cinema-verite style, as the subjects talk about and plan their reenactments.  The reenactments themselves are only shown sparsely, with the most poignant reenactments saved for the very end.  These reenactments are filmed in styles ranging from gangster crime films to even a full-out musical.

While the things these gangsters say does get a little repetitive over the course of the film, there is an interesting transformation in Anwar.  It begins to become obvious that he is haunted by the murders he committed and is eventually seen gagging as he is recalling the killings.

Overall, I thought it was a very interesting character study.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).