Film Reviews, Short Review

Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life (2011)


Werner Herzog’s film about capital punishment and the effect it has on the people around it and affected by it is one of his best documentaries to date. Into the Abyss starts slowly, taking us step-by-step through the horrific triple murder committed by its two central figures, Jason Burkett and Michael Perry, the latter being interviewed mere days before his execution. Herzog’s questions are simple, but always straight to the point. Despite the lack of education of many of his interviewees (one admits he didn’t learn to read until well into adulthood), he draws from them an especially despairing vision of incarceration, mindless violence, and murder. Although the film is patchy in parts, perhaps due to the fact that Herzog was working from only a few hours total of interview footage, it is nevertheless extremely powerful.


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