Into the Abyss

Posted on November 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and some disturbing images
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: References to drugs and alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: The movie concerns the violent murder of three people and the aftermath, many references to violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 16, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B0067EKZ62

Werner Herzog continues his exploration of the darkness and the light within the human spirit with “Into the Abyss,” a documentary about why and how we kill each other, in violation of the law and directed by it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uV1_Yc8OSw

In Texas, where as many as two prisoners are executed each week, Herzog speaks to the people connected to one crime, the senseless murder of three people by a couple of teenagers, who were just trying to steal a hot car.  Herzog remains off-camera as he interviews the men, now in their 20’s, who are in prison, one just days from his scheduled execution, the woman whose mother and brother were two of the victims, the chaplain and the correctional officer who are the last people the condemned prisoner sees, the police officer who investigated the crime, and others who help to tell the bleak story of loss and limits.

Herzog lets each of them tell us not just what they think but who they are.  He lets us discover for ourselves the telling details like the sign that says “Dream” over the fireplace in the living room of the corrections officer as he tells us that after over 100 executions he just could not do it any more and the tree growing through the floorboards of the car once deemed worth three lives, now rotting in the police impound lot.  We meet the father of one of the two prisoners whose only gift to his son was pleading with the jury not to sentence him to death.  A woman describes falling in love with one of the men in prison and marrying him there.  Both have surprises that confound our expectations.  Many of the interviews present a bleak portrait of limited vistas and opportunities alongside limitless need for love.

Indeed, no matter what views you bring to this film, you will come away enlarged, moved, changed as much from the compassion and generosity of Herzog himself as from the people he interviews. Herzog, who had just an hour with each of his subjects and shows us his first and only conversations with them, has made a film that expands his consideration of the human struggle for connection and meaning.

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