The Look of Silence and the Problem of Monstrosity

Film-Philosophy 21 (3):392-409 (2017)
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In Beyond Moral Judgment, Alice Crary defends a version of moral objectivism which turns on the idea that participation in moral life involves acquired affective proclivities: subjective capacities which nevertheless allow us to be receptive to objective features of the world. In this article, I draw out key aspects and implications of her account with reference to Joshua Oppenheimer's 2014 film The Look of Silence, a companion piece to 2012's The Act of Killing. The film depicts a series of confrontations between optometrist Adi Rukun and warlords and gangsters involved in massacres perpetrated during Indonesia's anti-communist purges. Many of the interviews were carried out under the pretext of conducting eye tests, and the optometric equipment Rukun affixes to the faces of the perpetrators – who often appear quite cavalier about or even proud of their deeds – functions as a stark metaphor for their failures to see the meaning and consequences of their actions. As I work to show, there is something disq...



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