Executioners in Indonesia, astronauts adrift in space and a writer blocked in Rome have helped make 2013 a memorable year for film lovers

When looking back over an entire year of film, it can sometimes be tricky to pick one out for special praise. Great films often defy comparison or ranking. This year, though, there was one that stood out from all the others. The Act of Killing lodged firmly in my brain from the moment I saw it, and I’ve got the feeling it’s taken up long-term residence. For me, it’s
the film of the 2013.

The documentary, executive produced by Werner Herzog, is unlike any that I’ve seen before. It explores the purge of Communists that took place in Indonesia after the military coup of 1965 and is told from the point of view of the executioners who helped carry out a mass murder that’s estimated to have claimed anything between 500,000 and three million lives.