The Act of killing follows former “gangsters” who are responsible for aiding a Genocide during the 1960’s in Indonesia. At this time they helped the military in killing thousands of presumed communist. Their government was in complete military control at the time and the details of this genocide have been overlooked at the time. However, the act of killing is not a simply retelling of what has happened we following these gangster as they recruit actors, extras, design a set and props and put together reenactments of the killings they did to create a film. They are more than willing to reminisce and reveal the many ways they’ve killed people, this film they are creating also seems to have pleasant comic relief with strange dance sequences and cross-dressing. We even get a character profile of who seems to be the most charismatic of the criminals we meet, Anwar Congo. Congo has the most camera time and his personal reflection is manipulated at the end to help viewers come to a conclusion, an element used in many documentaries.
What I think makes this film so critically acclaimed are those many elements, this film is very layered and we a given true raw stories, that a graphic, and represented visually, and the “characters” are open. However, the story itself is disgusting. The men we meet clearly lacked morality and seem as if they still do. Many times Anwar has said “I did it because I had to”, He describes the best ways to kill someone without seeming remorseful. Though, as the actor in recreating the killing for their film he felt terrified as if he was really going to be killed there is no way he could possibly feel what any the “communists” he killed ever felt. When the other militia men reminisce on burning down villages, and raping young women I felt the urge to vomit and cry; which is exactly what Anwar did in that very last sequence. This film is where the exploitation of documentary film is exemplified. Here we have murderer willing to admit their murder, this film is structured beautifully but in reality this is a terrible story. There is no answer to this, no “right” way to go about it. All stories and narratives are important to be told, and in terms of film it is incredibly innovative that we are hearing from the “bad guys” instead of historians or “experts” who have done a lot of research.