The best way to understand a villain is to find out why he thinks he’s the hero in his own story.
The Act of Killing uses this approach in lieu of a conventional documentary format. Here, the perpetrators are given free rein to give an interpretation of their actions.
The result is a film within a film – a series of re-enactments that turns into absurd allegories of impunity. The film making process is shown with Anwar Congo – the main character – and his cohorts dramatizing their crimes using their favorite genres.
While the dramatizations become more surreal, the killers gain hindsight of their crimes. Self-realization seeps in and they finally feel the impact of the plain and continuously denied truth of their actions. In turn, this unmasks the regime that they have helped built.
All of this makes for a powerful, at times humorous, and painful but a must-see documentary. While it may not provide any historical context, it’s able to fully execute its purpose to a disturbing effect. It puts a human face, not a hyped monster, on a series of murders.
The Act of Killing shows that what makes a brutal act much more brutal is our capability to warp the truth and see it as normal.
The Act of Killing
The Act of Killing is a unique, terrifying, and revelatory documentary that examines impunity and shows the banality of evil.