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Film review: Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life

AS MAJESTIC and entertaining as Werner Herzog’s recent documentaries have been, they’ve also veered dangerously close to self-parody thanks to the barmy Bavarian’s highly speculative musings and his penchant for teasing out kooky stories from eccentric interviewees.

Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life (15)

* * * *

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Into the Abyss, however, is a much more sobering, less personality driven effort and, as a result, offers a reminder of what Herzog does better than anyone: find new ways of looking at the world. His subject this time around is the fallout from senseless and violent crime, and he stares at it head-on by tracing the agonizing ripple effect a triple homicide committed in Texas in 2001 has had on the families of the victims, the perpetrators of the crime and the officials responsible for administering the death sentence. The result is a moving, disturbing and quietly angry film that delves into the complex emotions surrounding capital punishment and subtly rails against both the societal emptiness that induces crime and the void it leaves in those left to pick up the pieces. Consequently, it is a film full of despair, but it’s also compelling, and Herzog’s interview with a death-row groupie towards the end of the film provides a horribly grim punchline.

 

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