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The Act Of Killing: 5 Reasons It Will Haunt You For Days

4. The Re-enactment: Life Imitating Art?

actofkilling3 For Anwar, cinema was not only his business but his passion; forever enticed by the prospect of another Hollywood import. Therefore it is hardly surprising that their film is heavily influenced by the genres that Anwar and his cronies consider their favourites; the gangster flicks, the war films and the musicals. We'll return to that curious third choice later but for now let's concentrate on the first. The scene is set for a hard-boiled detective story: two heavies are interrogating an alleged communist (played by Anwar, who also directs) in a dimly-lit office. At first, he doesn't seem to mind pretending to be beaten with a plank of wood and having a knife 'pressed' into his cheek but after several retakes, the stifling heat forces Anwar to call cut. Suddenly he's not so comfortable playing the victim. The interrogators, however, are fully engrossed in their roles. It would be easy for Oppenheimer to fashion a link between the brutality shown on the big screen and the atrocities carried out in real life, thus painting each of the killers as just another impressionable young mind warped by the allure of movie violence. But although Anwar admits that he copied the likes of Brando and Pacino he also says, with an unnerving smile, that he was ''much more sadistic''. The group constantly refers to themselves as 'gangsters' - even now- and although their torture techniques were directly lifted from these films, it wasn't all hard looks and handguns, as Anwar explains:
''If we watched a happy film, like an Elvis movie, we€™d walk out of the cinema with a smile, dancing along to the music. Our hands and feet, still dancing€”still in the mood of the film€”and if girls passed, we€™d whistle.''
This perhaps explains just why Anwar is so contradictory a 'character': dancing and laughing while recalling the most horrendous stories imaginable. In order to make his film, he draws upon his experiences - which were in turn inspired by what he had seen at the movies. Many an actor has portrayed a killer, yet here are killers pretending to be actors.This film-within-a-film exposes the chilling truth about Anwar and his men: the reason they fall so neatly into the character of a gangster is because they never broke it.
Contributor
Contributor

Yorkshireman (hence the surname). Often spotted sacrificing sleep and sanity for the annual Leeds International Film Festival. For a sample of (fairly) recent film reviews, please visit whatsnottoblog.wordpress.com.