TIFF 2012: THE ACT OF KILLING Review
by Phil Brown
The Act Of Killing is one of those movies that you might only see at a film festival and don’t want to miss out on the chance of catching. It’s a documentary like no other I’ve seen and undoubtedly one of the most disturbing movies screened at TIFF this year. The title says it all. The film is about the weight of murder on the perpetrator’s conscious. That might take years to finally surface as it does for the subject of director Joshua Oppenheimer’s searing new doc. The fact that the unimaginable delay occurred is unthinkable, but the fact that Oppenheimer was somehow there with a camera to capture it is remarkable. The film will never be described as an easy watch, but it is something that will leave a deep impression on anyone able to see it and should definitely be sampled by those with the stomach to endure.
The Act Of Killing is an undeniably remarkable documentary (heralded by Werner Herzog and documentary master Errol Morris before release and admitted into festivals with their names attached as executive producers). It’s an honest and painful examination of the weight of murder and also a hypnotically constructed work of film in it’s own right. Opening with a scene of choreographed dance by a giant fish (presumably one of Congo’s oddball requests) and filled with bizarre moments like seeing former death squad members dressed in drag for recreations, there’s a twisted streak of dark humor slipped in amongst the emotionally devastating tragedy. It’s not exactly enough lighten the mood of the film by any stretch of the imagination, but enough to show Oppenheimer’s varied skills as a filmmaker. He isn’t someone simply interested in shock value. He’s a filmmaker fascinated by the darkest and oddest extremes of the human condition. The Act Of Killing certainly goes to places few films have managed before and hopefully it’s not a project destined to live and die on the festival circuit. It’s something audiences need to see, even if they won’t exactly enjoy the experience in any conventional sense.