A couple of uplifting films

by Toby Woollaston

The Road

Perhaps the most depressing film I have ever seen. Moving, sad, and personal, it invaded my mind for days after viewing. The tragic father-son relationship played by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (who would later reprise a similar vulnerable innocence in the excellent Slow West) is wonderfully realised. We never know their names, they are simply Man and Boy, and their anonymity is brutally portrayed as they make their way through a world lost. The Road is a parable of our post apocalyptic fears and it strikes a chord because the premise is a genuine possibility for humanity.

Rating: 5 stars

The Act of Killing

A remarkably unique documentary that accounts the Indonesian genocide of 1965. Having somehow located the genocide’s death-squad leaders (who are now living normal lives in Indonesia, and yet to be brought to justice), director Joshua Oppenheimer, convinces them to re-enact their mass killings under the guise of shooting a Hollywood styled feature film. Oppenheimer presents his subjects with an uncomfortable lightness and humour which is at odds with the subject matter at hand. This juxtaposition only serves to ratchet up the unease as the film progresses. Interesting things begin to happen when the main subject enacts the part of the victim … the result is surprising and disturbing. A chilling reminder of what atrocities every human is capable of.

Whereas The Road suggests a future world where humanity’s deficiencies have prevailed, The Act of Killing underscores similar frailties that have already happened in our past. Both films illustrate the very real and brutal side of human nature. This dark side of humanity is unfortunately all too common when certain conditions are present, and I believe we need to be reminded of this every so often. Hence, I consider these films as essential viewing.

Rating: 4 stars