Werner Herzog’s Into The Abyss Review and Trailer

Let us begin this review by establishing a few constants.

1. This is a Werner Herzog film.
1.A. Werner Herzog is one of the great innovators of subjective documentary film-making.
1.A.a. This film is subjective.

This logical progression should be simple for anyone to understand, even with the convoluted numerical and notation system I decided to implement.

Werner Herzog long ago cast off the preconception that documentary film-making should strive for objectivity, influencing other documentary filmmakers such as Errol Morris.  However, there is a difference between this type of subjectivity and that of documentary activists such as Michael Moore.  Michael Moore has a specific ideology which he is trying to put forth, and he does this by throwing every trick he has in the book to convince you of it.

Into The Abyss, on the other hand, while also having a specific ideology unique to Herzog, does not try to sell it to you.  Werner Herzog begins the film by stating explicitly that he “…does not believe human beings should be executed.”  However, this film is not an “issue film”, as it has been portrayed in much of the media, in the line of the documentary activists, such as Michael Moore or the many eco-docs that have flourished of late.

Rather, what Herzog does with “Into The Abyss” is he gives the death penalty a human face.  He interviews everyone involved with the death penalty – the two murderers (one of whom is to be executed, the other has a life sentence), the relatives of the victims, the police officers, a Texas executioner, etc.  This film will very likely not alter your opinion of the death penalty – but you will not leave the theater without being forced to consider very deeply the human aspect of executions, and of death overall.  For, while this film does revolve around a triple homicide and the resulting incarceration and execution, what the film does even more is peer into the casket of death, and force us to look at how death affects everybody.

The many elements of the film all donate well to the overall piece. The police video of the crime scene, for instance, is shown rather extensively and is incredible. Through it, we not only get a first hand view of this grisly occurrence, but we also get to see a glimpse into the mentality of the police officer on the scene recording the murder. The interviews, too, are all extremely human, and humanely conducted.

This is a very contemplative film, and I would suggest it to anyone.  It is a film well-worth considering.

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