I hate movie trailers, because whenever I judge a movie based on one, I’m always wrong. The trailer for Greenberg was atrocious – and it was the best movie from 2010. The same thing happens again, with “The Act of Killing.”
When I saw the trailer a few months back, it struck me as a cutesy attempt at edgy absurdity – a foreign stab at David Lynch, with surreal musical numbers mixed with graphic violence. It’s Quentin Tarantino, with subtitles.
Boy was I wrong. Tarantino could never make something this amazing. This is a film that would make Lynch cry.
The Act of Killing is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It reminds me of three great films, but seems to exceed all of them: “Hearts of Darkness” (the documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now), Lynch’s greatest achievement, “Blue Velvet,” and the forgotten Belgium gem, “Man Bites Dog.”
The uncut version is available on ITunes, and running at a near 2 hours and forty minutes – it flies by. I’ve had cigarettes that seemed longer. It’s so unbelievably put together and shot – and…the story…the story…well, it’s amazing.
The gist: a group of death squad executioners and gangsters who participated in a massacre of millions of alleged Communists in Indonesia back in the mid 1960’s, want to make a movie about their exploits. To set the record straight, I suppose. The problem is, the record is not kind to them.
And they want to play themselves.
This movie, is about the making of that movie. There are no actors in this film. The stars are actually homicidal maniacs – the chief killer admitting to strangling hundreds, maybe thousands. And, he’s as charming as a gentle grandfather on a walk. Victims are played by them, too.
Joshua Oppenheimer directs the film, as these killers re-enact their crimes on film, while participating in some of the most unusual musical interludes ever committed to film. As an example, here are the two main gangsters being told by a victim how grateful he was to have been murdered by them, and sent to Heaven. This, to the tune of Born Free. (sorry about the subtitles)
As these re-creations of brutality unfold, you hope for the grand realization – when these horrible men realize how horrible they really are.
Does it come?
This is the best picture of 2013. You should travel back in time, and go see it yesterday.