Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Into the Abyss (Rhoades)

Werner Herzog Takes
Us “Into the Abyss”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

German-born director Werner Herzog Stipetić is like a grab bag, his films always a surprise. In the past he’s given us mesmerizing documentaries about recently discovered cave paintings (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”), patched-together sci-fi outings (“The Wild Blue Yonder”), Nicolas Cage in a murky remake (“The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”), a stylistic vampire thriller (“Nosferatu the Vampyre”), Russian superstition (“Bells from the Deep”), and his masterpiece about Spanish soldiers exploring the Amazon River in search of El Dorado (“Aguirre, the Wrath of God”). Herzog even wrote and starred in a pseudo-documentary about him looking for monsters (“Incident at Loch Ness”). And he participated in a self-explanatory short film titled “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe,” in which he pays off on a bet with filmmaker Errol Morris. He’s even made a guest appearance on TV’s “The Simpsons.”
Werner Herzog’s consider an important figure in New German Cinema, but as you can see his subjects span the globe (and even outer space).
Here he has taken a page from Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” to give us a documentary about two men convicted of a triple homicide in Texas. Appropriately titled “Into the Abyss,” the document is playing this week at the Tropic Cinema. [Starting Friday, Jan. 20]
Michael Perry and Jason Burkett committed the murders while stealing a car for a joyride. The two men blame the crimes on each other. But Perry went to the electric chair 8 days after his interviews for Herzog’s film. Burkett is serving a life sentence.
The film also introduces us to family members of the victims, prison guards, and Burkett’s wife who married him after he went to jail. Despite their only physical contact being holding hands, she proclaims that she’s pregnant with the killer’s baby.
The film’s title underwent several revisions – from “Death Row” to “Gazing Into The Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale Of Life” to “Werner Herzog’s Final Confessions.” But when he decided to spin off other death-row interviews into a television series, the title settled on “Into the Abyss.”
This nihilistic title, of course, comes from Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
With this documentary Herzog lets you gaze at monsters up close.”
[from Solares Hill]

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