Sunday, November 13, 2011

AFI FEST 2011: Werner Herzog's "Into the Abyss"

INTO THE ABYSS: A TALE OF DEATH, A TALE OF LIFE (2011) **** 105mins. D: Werner Herzog.

Werner Herzog's latest documentary takes a balanced look at capital punishment.

Herzog follows two convicted murderers, one on death row and the other serving life. He looks at the evidence and lays out the heinous crime that these two committed. Neither would fess up blaming the other for committing the crime. Herzog flat out tells one that he respects him but doesn't like him. So begins his look at the effect of capital punishment on the perpetrators, the victims and those who have to carry out the sentence.

Herzog allows the people to tell the story, he does not provide any voice-over narrative as it would seem superfluous. He does not set out to make an advocacy film. As you watch the film you realize that its more about life then it is about death. The film is at times humorous as Herzog often manages to find humor in the most unexpected situations. During an interview with a pastor he focuses on something that most filmmakers would dismiss. While at first funny, it evolves into a very profound and moving story.

Full of memorable characters, each with sound and justified reasons for being for or against the death penalty. It will neither make you pro or con but allows you to make your decisions.

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