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Exceedingly late blog post woo!

Since this is my last post for remake/remodel, I’m not going to talk about Apocalypse Now. I am, instead, going to talk about a film called The Act of Killing, that in many ways I consider a remaking of Apocalypse Now.

The Act of Killing is, like Apocalypse Now, an attempt to cinematically represent an event that represents the depths of human violence, in this case the 1965-66 Indonesian genocides. However, whereas the scale of Apocalypse Now is grand, The Act of Killing is intimate. It focusses on Anwar Congo, former leader of one of the most feared death squads of the genocide, who personally carried out over 1000 killings. While it would be easy to vilify and demonize him, what’s more disturbing is just what a normal, pleasant old man he is.

Where it gets interesting is the conceit of the film. We talked in seminar about where film crosses with documentary in Apocalypse Now, but The Act of Killing is the inverse; ostensibly a documentary that is increasingly filmic. The film-makers invite Anwar and his friends to re-enact their killings in the styles of their favourite movie genres. The lines between reality and the acted scenes become increasingly blurred and surreal.

I’ve harped on about the role of media, fiction, narrative, and portrayal in the Vietnam War, and how that constructs a narrativeĀ of the War, but what’s interesting in The Act of Killing is how direct the role of cinema is. Anwar and co. acknowledge the influence of cinema in their lives as gangsters and criminals, and the film, through the way it tells its story, implicates itself in the cycle of violence that it both presents and represents, documents and perpetuates.

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