Sunday, 11 September 2011
TIFF 2011 - Into the Abyss
By Alan Bacchus
What a devastating film. Into the Abyss is an elegiac case against capital punishment told through the far reaching circle of violence surrounding a particularly grisly and inhuman act of murder.
Michael Perry is on death row for a 2001 triple murder, which saw a random woman, her son and a friend murdered over a car. As recounted by Herzog, it's that utterly frightening kind of murder, a random killing perpetrated by young men with no concept of moral right and wrong, and no concept of life or death.
Even though it's been almost 10 years and Perry is days away from death, he maintains his innocence. It’s the same with his accomplice, Jason Burkett, who received a life sentence. Both of these guys continue to blame each other and divest themselves of the greater responsibility. But Herzog is never interested in stirring up controversy or re-investigating the case. Instead, he focuses on the cloud of violence that feeds into his rather profound sketch of the cycle of violence that afflicts this rural southern community of Conroy, Texas.
Herzog's usually droll interview techniques pull out some remarkable confessions. The victim's sister, for instance, after recounting the painful details of the moment she heard about the murders, reveals an astounding history of family violence, which left half a dozen of her family members dead due to various causes in the last six years.
Each and every angle of this story opens up a complex web of violence that is never ending. The depth of the levels of tragedy is staggering. It’s a truly sad and frightening picture, but it’s important for Herzog and his audience to help comprehend how such heinous actions can be committed over and over again.