The Re-enacting of Mass Murder. A presentation of Act of Killing.
Josh Oppenheimer’s movie Act of Killing (2012) has massacres in Indonesia 1965-66 as its point of departure. Between 500.000 and 1 million opponents of the military dictatorship – allegedly communists – were killed. The army used paramilitairies/gangsters to carry out the killings (with the knowledge and aid from the West). But Act of Killing is not an ordinary documentary about some of the death-squad leaders and their deeds. It is a movie about making a movie. Its actors, the actual perpetrators, are re-enacting the killings they originally committed and they are themselves directing the scenes. ”The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (Hamlet, Act 3, scene 2) so to speak. As a ’meta-movie’ the movie doesn’t primarily represent a truth against lies and public suppression of the truth – though it is a documentary, too – it makes the uncanny present.