It’s been about a month since I watched The Act Of Killing (iTunes rental). I watched the regular version of the film even though the director’s cut was offered, as well. According to the film’s promoters I should have watched the director’s cut. No duh! I just have this thing about downloading stuff; call me a minimalist. I will always prefer a two hour version over a three hour version. Time is money, you know. Nomatter. Here’s the the thing to keep in mind about worst-moi watching this film. Since watching it I’ve had trouble sleeping, found myself searching youtube for videos about Hitler’s drug addiction, and I even spent a few hours trying to figure out how meth is made in case I have to live in a dungeon-like basement during the period of the world’s end. That said… It took me a few weeks to figure out what exactly was so stirring about this movie. So let’s try to go there, shall we. Figure this out, I mean.
“The fruits of plunder and atrocity.” -Joshua Oppenheimer (see this vid > ca. 3:45)
After watching The Act of Killing I spent days completely immersed in it. I was, indeed, preoccupied. And not just because I couldn’t believe what I watched. I mean. I had heard of the film when it first came out. That part of the media does trickle down to me. You know. Headlines (on websites). Film festival accolades. (Heck! This film even has a separate wiki page for its accolades). But. As usual. It takes time for such works to actually get to me. Not only have I cut myself off from media reception by traditional means but I also don’t go to the cinema anymore and, for all practical purposes, I avoid humanity as much as possible. Except, maybe, through some social media venues–but even then I only frequent those places when I have questions that need answering or an itch that needs tickling. And so. Bored out of my mind and tired of flicking and clicking through the Interwebnets I came by The Act of Killing where I said: It’s time to watch it. I went ahead and booked the few dollars for it and within minutes I got a notice from iTunes: “your video is now ready for viewing.” Btw, I was glad to also get a notice from iTunes twenty-four hours after watching this movie that it was being deleted.
Viewing indeed! This film is almost unbelievable. Reason? It is a documentary, I think. It also a film about a film–that is being made. Stop. Wait. Let me try that again. This documentary is a story of how one makes a film about how killers, when given the change to make a film, make a film about their killings. No. Wait. One more time. This film is a piece of art that depicts killers and murderers who are asked to make a film about being…. Full stop. It is just a documentary with a very unique twist. It is about murder and mayhem, absolute ignorance and dumbfounded-ness, and the viewer is engulfed in an almost fairytale untale about inhumanity. And when it’s over all I could think about was… Hitler was a pretty heavy drug user, especially meth; fascism rose out of the red menace; great, now I can’t sleep; could I actually make meth?
I also think about this (now that I’ve gotten over the initial trauma of the film): the barbarous acts undertaken in Indonesia in the mid-’60s can be justifiable. Seriously. The killing of hundreds of thousands (millions!) of people–which lies in the hatred of the red menace–is justifiable in the minds of those who rule Indonesia. With the backing of the US government, the oligarchy of Indonesia relied on a brainwashed group of thugs and gangsters–who idealised American films about gangsters and thugs–to thwart any red menace threat to the ruling elite. Of course, the US did the same thing in South America and other parts of south east Asia. The difference to Indonesia, though, was that a small paramilitary force was let loose on the population–and that force acted like a pack of wild dogs.
Which brings me ’round to the following chain of events that took place in my mind’s eye after watching this documentary. The chain of events goes something like this: violence and cruelty > fascism wins > Adolf Hitler was a meth nut > the US must save the world from the red menace, etc. Like any movie that scares the beejeebees out of me, it takes time to get that movie out of my head. After about four weeks I was able to thwart the fears of thug killers in distant lands justifying their behaviour. Dry heaves n’all. Yet there is a weighted irony about what Indonesia went through then and what we all are forced to go through now. Indeed. The timeless tentacles of fascism are long and arduous. And those tentacles have fingers and ears and whispering tech devices that know (y)our every move. Which some people don’t seem to mind since we have the profits of those devices which are made at close to zero labour costs. Yes. Indeed. Fascism. Chain of events. My mind’s eye is still lost with this question: What was actually murdered in the fight against the red menace? Humanity? Full stop.
Rant on. -t
PS I’m already afeared about watching this film’s part II: The Look Of Silence. But endure must we all.