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Into the Abyss (2011)

Into the Abyss (2011)

Werner HerzogRichard LopezMichael PerryDamon Hall
Werner Herzog


Into the Abyss (2011) is a English movie. Werner Herzog has directed this movie. Werner Herzog,Richard Lopez,Michael Perry,Damon Hall are the starring of this movie. It was released in 2011. Into the Abyss (2011) is considered one of the best Documentary,Crime,Drama movie in India and around the world.

Into the abyss explores a triple murder which occurred in the small Texas City of Conroe in 2001. Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, murdered a middle-aged housewife; they then gunned down her stepson and his friend. The film features Conversations with the two inmates and those affected by their crime. Unlike many of the films that deal with crimes, into the abyss isn't concerned with figuring out exactly what happened, but rather serves as an examination of why people - and the state - kill.


Into the Abyss (2011) Reviews

  • Engrossing, sobering look into the dramatics of death


    You know and value Herzog because he's one of few these days who can offer a glimpse of cosmologic infrastructure. The wheels and chains that move the world beneath the stories we make up to describe it. What he does, is that he frames chaotic nature where it has a story to tell - say a man living with bears, or an island about to explode - builds this as opera while maintaining the illusion of spontaneous life, blurring document with fiction, then uses this to bring to the surface an image that explains the madness of those stories. A boat being tugged over a hill, as pure as this. The story here is about death-row inmates awaiting execution in a Texas penitentiary, structured so that we absorn not just the heinous, meaningless crime but the broader world that leads up to it, allows it to happen, is dependent on and reflects it. Broken homes, unemployment, casual street violence, Herzog provides enough background detail to ground this in a larger systemic failure: so-called civilized society as only a facade of chaotic nature left to seed. As with Caves the previous year, the film is talky, dependent on people being able to conjure an experience we only have a handful of images for; the crime scene, dried blood still spattered on the walls, the quietly ominous-looking execution chamber, the prison cemetery lined with crosses of the executed. And this is the whole point. Here is a story of immense, sobering power, interviewing a man who will be dead by Monday, but of course Herzog cannot film the moment, much to the chagrin of many. He has to tell a story around it. No, the point is that we only have words, memories, stories to say. Many of these are recounted in the film. The execution itself is pieced together from objects and testimonies, very much like we would process a memory. But these stories are still powerful enough to decide life and death. Two were convicted for the crime, and going beyond who pulled the trigger, since both planned for it, only one was sentenced to die. This is what is so sobering to me; one man just had a better story to tell the court, more touching drama to explain his being, and we get to note this in the film for a clear effect, he's just more agreeable to listen to, appears more responsible, more level-headed and contrite, whereas the other is just a little wacky. Asked about a story, he blurts out something about monkeys and camp. Herzog himself is markedly disinterested in him, whereas a lot of time is devoted to the man who isn't going to die, a long soliloquy by his guilt-wracked father - serving life in the same prison - that we presume is as sentimental as he pled to the court with it. The bitter, hard-to-swallow truth is that this guy's life is simply better movie material, makes for a better story, and this decides life - notice too his wife's sappy story about their first encounter, misty-eyed soap as it is. So even though the film seems more streamlined and ordinary for Herzog, talky opposed to visually primal, it is as pure as he ever delivered, perhaps without himself knowing it. The whole system we have devised to support life, call it state, society, civilization, is not an infallible, impartial machine but hinges on the bias of storytelling and emotion. The law is arbitrary, equally chaotic as what is meant to organize. At the bottom of that, there is only time and emptiness. Observant Herzog fans will note that he used this intertitle - 'Time and Emptiness' - for the closing segment of his Buddhist documentary Wheel of Time. See if you can spot the powerful connection between these two, the floating worlds and ritual they portray.

  • 'The State of Texas wants to kill me'


    He's taken us into a forgotten cave; alongside bears; to the end of the world; and now Werner Herzog takes us straight into the mind of a madman, in a documentary about what causes people to kill and what society's attitude to such people should be. Herzog concentrates on just one case, which is more than enough to make his points. Although he doesn't appear on screen, Herzog's voice is important. He dons the role of interviewer, which I believe contributes to the film's power. He asks very precise questions, persists when necessary, but does so in a very innocent, nonchalant way, sometimes even cracking a joke with his subject, who is usually an emotional wreck. And why not? They give more of themselves to someone who they feel is on their side, and we get an insight that is much more accurate than it otherwise could have been. Michael Perry was a boy when he was convicted of killing a nurse and suspected of killing two youths in 2001. The state of Texas executed him eight days after the film's release. His accomplice to the latter murders, Jason Burkett, received a life sentence. These and other relevant people, such as family members and prison officials, are interviewed to gain a broad range of views on what has always been a difficult political and moral topic. Documentaries tend to stand back from their topics; Herzog gets right up under their nose. At times I felt he was oblivious to his audience, as though trying to satisfy his own curiosity. And that's why he has always been highly respected: his selfishness is the key to his charity. All interviews are incredibly moving, not just because almost all involve tears, but because I felt that interviewees had nothing else to reveal and what they did reveal was utterly sincere. This docu-drama uses actual police footage of the crime scenes which, when accompanied by an austere soundtrack, gives the film a sombre, eerie tone. There's no doubt about it: the crimes were heinous. Both Perry and Burkett blamed each other. Both denied involvement. What's clear is that the crimes were unprovoked and victims perished needlessly. (We're led to believe that people were murdered for the sake of a red sports car.) Although Herzog states unequivocally that he is anti-capital punishment ('I don't think human beings should be executed. Simple as that'), he never proselytises. He produces an equal account of the merits and pitfalls of state-sponsored execution and, like any objective filmmaker, allows his audience the final say. www.moseleyb13.com

  • Well Made But Lacks Punch


    In Conroe, Texas, 2001, Michael Perry and Jason Burkett broke into the home of an acquaintance, Jason Stotler, in the hopes of stealing a new car. When their plan began to unravel, Perry shot and killed Stotler's mother. After dumping the body, they then killed Stotler and another friend in order to regain access to the house inside of a gated community they had been locked out of. Shortly thereafter, the duo was arrested after a haphazard shootout and brought to justice. Perry was sentenced to death, Burkett to life in prison. With Perry's execution right around the corner, filmmaker Werner Herzog journeyed to the maximum security prison in Huntsville, Texas in order to interview the culprits, get the details of the case, and have a look at the concept of the death penalty. Perhaps the preeminent voice in documentary filmmaking, Herzog has spent the majority of his illustrious career crafting his approach and that shines through once again here. What I love about Herzog's documentaries is that there's never any question as to how he feels about his subject matter and yet you never feel as if he's forcing it down his throat. At the outset of Into the Abyss he states (off-camera) that he is against the death penalty and at times you can tell that his film is sliding toward his side of the argument. A very compelling portion of the film involves Herzog's discussions with a man who spent his entire career strapping the condemned to a gurney until a series of events led him to jump to the other side of the argument. Still, however, Herzog allows the audience to judge for themselves, choosing to let the camera roll while laying out the facts. My impression is that Herzog would like to start a dialogue concerning the matter rather than shame proponents of the death penalty into submission. At the same time, Into the Abyss pulls no punches in its portrayal of both Perry and Burkett. While both profess their innocence, Herzog quietly points out the holes in their respective stories and makes it clear that there is virtually no evidence to support their claims. These two were morons with a history of bad and violent behavior who finally escalated their actions. Perhaps their greatest mistake was being so stupid as to believe they could get away with their crimes when clearly neither one of them had the mental capacity to outsmart a brain damaged dog, let alone a team of police detectives. The film uses splices of the videos investigators shot at the crime scene and accentuates the footage with interviews with the detective in charge of the case and the family members of the victims. It is a dark light that is shed on Perry and Burkett and Herzog makes no attempt to turn them into the martyrs they would have you believe they are. The only real issue I had with Into the Abyss is that it simultaneously tries to cover too much ground and doesn't reach quite far enough. Herzog takes the time to highlight a fairly extensive interview with Burkett's father, himself in prison, in an effort to illuminate Burkett's difficult childhood but then doesn't do anything with this information. It seems as if the film goes halfway toward building a bit of sympathy for at least Burkett, if not Perry, and then abandons the idea. There are also a handful of interviews that don't seem to serve much of a purpose. At the same time, because of the nature of how Herzog shot the film, his "turn on the cameras and see what happens" style, there are times when Into the Abyss seems a bit purposeless. There's no great statement made and again, while I appreciate that he didn't take to the heavy-handed preaching tactic used too often in these documentaries, this leaves the film devoid of a lasting impression. It's a good film and one that is certainly worth watching if for no other reason than the conversation it could lead to but it lacks the punch that I would have expected it to display. Please see my reviews at thesoapboxoffice.com

  • A look into the lives surrounding a Texas execution


    Herzog's work may lend itself to interpretation more than most. And while it may just be a quibble of emphasis, I would not, as the other two reviewers here have, say this is essentially a documentary about 'capital punishment'. Just as I would not say "grizzly man" was really a documentary about bear attacks. Herzog lets it be known he doesn't approve of the death penalty, but mostly, like most Herzog documentaries, this just struck me as a portrait of (as another reviewer put it well) the "ill-fated". Certainly, if you go into this thinking you're going to get Michael Moore style anti-death penalty agitprop, you're going to be disappointed. This is a series of interviews with a Texas death row inmate scheduled for imminent execution (an inmate Herzog has characterized in interviews as a "truly frightening" human being) and the lives of some of those either the case, or the Texas Death Penalty system generally, have touched upon. It is probably the least sensationalistic account of its sort put on film. And for that alone, Herzog deserves praise. Having lived in Houston for many years and knowing this area just north of it pretty well, I can say Herzog is able convey a lot about the area and its people, through the lens of this horrific act, very well. Well, once more, what is it about, if not capital punishment.... I think Herzog in a related context (his "On Death Row" documentary series) may have put it best when an attorney he was interviewing noted 'we all have a need to humanize' and rationalize these people who have done terrible things, and Herzog stopped them to say "I don't humanize them. I don't want to humanize. They simply are human beings". And that's kind of how I saw 'into the abyss'. It's not an attempt to rationalize or humanize a triple-murderer, nor is it an attempt rationalize, demonize, or humanize state sanctioned execution. It's just portrait of a piece of life as it is now lived.

  • Death and life


    I have seen many Herzog films: Encounters at the End of the World, Rescue Dawn, Grizzley Man, and Aguirre: The Wrath of God, just to name a few. I have always been fascinated with his work. Herzog documentaries are notable for using locals instead of professionals to give it a ring of truth. It makes for a more interesting story. This film was made 8 days before Michael Perry, a man on death row convicted of murdering Sandra Stotler, a fifty-year-old nurse, was to be executed. He was suspected, but never charged, in two other murders which occurred in Conroe, Texas, with his accomplice Jason Burkett. Perry was convicted eight years earlier of the October 2001 murder, apparently committed in order to steal a car for a joyride. Perry denies that he was responsible for the killings, blaming Burkett (also appearing in the film) who was convicted of the other two murders. Burkett, who received a lesser life sentence for his involvement, likewise blames Perry. The tales of all involved, especially the inmate's father, and the warden, were fascinating.


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