November 4th, 2011 | Comments Off
Sometimes we don’t realise how much we are being influenced by fiction, that is, until we are confronted with reality. Into the Abyss – A tale of death, A tale of life, Werner Herzog’s new documentary, opens our eyes with a refreshing and foremost honest approach to death row and all that is involved.
It is clear from the beginning that Herzog himself is against the idea of the death penalty, however, the documentary is not put together as a campaign to end this practice. With clarity, which sometimes borders to the unreal itself, this documentary sets out the facts, nothing more and nothing less.
Very level headed, Herzog is allowed to interview a man, or a boy rather, eight days before he will be walking the green mile and will have to face his death. As said, the film is not put together as a sympathy vote. If Herzog wanted to campaign against the death penalty he could have easily found a more ‘public appealing’ subject than the boy who killed in order to own a red sports car – but perhaps that is the point, a life is a life after all.
As an anthropologist, he hears from all parties affected and without force manages to find out exactly how they feel and what they went through. It shows us a portrait not just of the man on death row but of all around him.
Herzog even goes one step further when he interviews a reverend and a former executioner and talks with them about life, pure and simple. It is the purity that hits home, which makes the documentary ‘different’. It is also the remarkable interview technique Herzog masters like no other that produces fascinating results.
No glitter, no glamour, no unnecessary drama, the facts are sufficient. With this film the Bavarian filmmaker once again shows us the reality, not the show, which is life. Sometimes though this brings more than we could have imagined.
Written by Alexandra Zeevalkink
Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentary films, art projects and social inequalities. When she is not blogging or watching films she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.
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