The Act of Killing (Fiction)

A different way of viewing The Act of Killing.


Joshua Oppenheimer’s new documentary film The Act of Killing is yet another confrontation with the central philosophical problem of our recent history. Immediately, we are seduced by the content of the film: former gangsters for the government of Indonesia, after describing their story, reenact the murder of hundreds of communists using traditional cinematic techniques (and they appear to get off on it). Already, the content of the film has divided film critics, most of whom have resorted to normative frameworks for their assessment. Some critics have even called for a boycott of the film at film festivals and awards ceremonies.

We should not join the ranks of the moralists and call for a boycott of the film. Perhaps there is something much more profound about the film that is worth examining. It is not that the content (the story) is not important. Indeed it is, but the normative question is simply…

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