Thursday, October 25, 2012

Into The Abyss

Last week I finally checked off a film that's been on my "to watch" list for a while now: Werner Herzog's documentary, Into The Abyss. The film explores our nation's most  controversial institution, the death penalty.  It is told through the stories of two men who were convicted of murder ten years prior, one of whom was actually sentenced to death in Huntsville, Texas (America's most "successful" execution facility) by the end of the film.

Through the duration of the film Herzog interviews all of the subjects himself- we often hear him off screen asking questions.  He interviews almost everyone involved in and affected by the crime- the victims' families, the murderers, the policeman who worked on the case, the families of the murderers, the man who served as the head chief of executions, right down to the woman who met and married one of the convicted criminals after he was sentenced to a life in prison. This way the viewer is able to see the opinions of people involved on all sides of the story. The film proved to be less about the actual crime and more about how it affected peoples' lives. It is clear that Herzog entered the project with no judgements, and seeks to relate to and understand each person he interviews. It is very interesting to see how each subject rationalizes the crime and their respective situations.

Perhaps the thing I liked most about the film is that it does not seem very biased as documentaries often are. Its obvious that Herzog opposes the death penalty, but he doesn't try to force that belief on anyone else through the film. He merely gathers the information he can through interviewing these people involved in the crime and presents it without comment. He lets the viewer formulate his own opinion on the controversial subject. This film very well done, and certainly thought provoking. It is currently streaming on Netflix, I would recommend checking it out.

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