Into the Abyss

16 November 2012 DVD

Into the Abyss

Death penalty documentaries often take the form of a detective story hoping to free a possibly innocent person from death row. Into the Abyss takes a more philosophical approach, with Werner Herzog offering multiple perspectives on the nature of state-sanctioned execution by presenting a variety of opinions about one case. While the material initially seems prosaic in comparison to the extreme characters Herzog has previously tackled (such as in Grizzly Man, 2005), it becomes clear that the director’s rigorous insight adds a fascinating dimension. Not only does he interview the perpetrators of a triple killing in Texas, but also the victims’ loved ones, death row guards and, movingly, the imprisoned father of one of the condemned men who is helplessly watching history repeat itself. These myriad viewpoints, combined with Herzog’s sensitive but candid line of questioning, result in a thought-provoking study (explored further in Death Row, Herzog’s TV series that is included with the film).

Guy Davis

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