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TIFF: Fotis Kanteres chimes in on Werner Herzog's latest premiere of INTO THE ABYSS!!!

Hey folks, Harry here...  in Toronto.   I'm here for essentially a single screening of the project I'm with, but I have secured tickets to Bobcat Goldwait's GOD BLESS AMERICA tonight at midnight at something called RYERSON... But I'll see what I've got time for while I'm here.   Thankfully though - so many of you Toronto AICNers have made a habit of sending in reviews from the various screenings y'all are checking out, plus somewhere in this town is Copernicus and Anton Sirius - so we'll just have to see what all we come up with.   Our first review comes from a long time AICN fan - who happens to love on the Herzog!   Which means he's an AICNer in good standing!  


Dear Harry and the boys at AICN,

Long time reader, Torontonian, and fan of Werner Herzog. I was fortunate to snag a last minute ticket to the premier of ‘Into the Abyss’ last night and would like to submit a review here.


I went into this movie fairly blind, which I think is a great way to see any movie; on the other hand part of the point of reading reviews beforehand is to separate the cream from the whey. Briefly, the story is based on a triple homicide that occurred in a small Texas town, the convicted perpetrators, victims, and some of the surrounding authorities. One of the perpetrators is on death row, and capital punishment is the crux of the film.


The film is presented in a conventional talking head interview manner, as you would expect in a typical A & E or TLC documentary (this in fact spawns from another mini-series for the Discovery Channel).


However, here is the big ‘but’ – this is a Werner Herzog film, so there is a guarantee his hands and perspective will permeate through and provide his own take and view on the subject matter. For this he does not disappoint. All of the pertinent info is presented, but moreover, in the brief time, the characters express themselves in a way that appears to delve into their cores, and this is whether they are aware of it or not. There is one interview with a pastor, asked about whether Capital punishment is God’s will, who shies away from answering, and tangentially proceeds to discuss almost running over a squirrel in a golf cart, whilst becoming misty eyed for the preciousness of life…this is one of Herzogs shining the mirror back on him, showing his hypocrisy. He does not blatantly take advantage of his subjects but does seek out veins to follow, in search of his ecstatic truth. The result for me was an interesting, look into some heavy real lives, with a meditation on life and death, which was surprising life affirming. On the last point, I mean that for a movie about murder, death, multiple life sentences and death row, I kept receiving a message about the urgency and fleeting nature of life, and how it should be lived as much as it can be.


In conclusion, Herzog films can be judged in general terms (which I tried to do above), but should also be considered in Herzog terms, relative to his own body of work, there are just too many stylistic and thematic parallels. In this latter respect, this film is vintage Herzog, harkening to his documentaries from the 80’s. This is not to say that he is simply drawing form his dusty bag of tricks, but that he still has the heat and can bring it in 2011. This is great news for Herzog fans as well as film lovers that will continue to be introduced to him as time goes on.


PS Herzog himself was at the screening, introducing and fielding questions, being his ever eloquent self, as vibrant as ever.




Fotis Kanteres

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 9, 2011, 3 p.m. CST


    by Kentucky Colonel

    Because I care

  • Sept. 9, 2011, 4:47 p.m. CST


    by UtopiaComplex

    That would be the Ryerson University Theatre.

  • Sept. 9, 2011, 8:43 p.m. CST

    Anime Herzog Bitches!

    by grandwiz

  • Sept. 10, 2011, 1:49 a.m. CST

    Herzog, Herzog, Herzog

    by 33.3rpm

    I'm celebrating my 21st year in Los Angeles (yes, celebrating. I dig it.) and one of the greatest weeks of my life was a retrospective the Director's Guild held for him, for a week, around 1994/95. Werner was there every night, either doing Q&A's after screenings, or doing "live translations" of German dialogue. "Sculptor Steiner", "Fata Morgana", "Dwarves", "The Oil Field Fire thing I can't remember the name of". My point is, I will take that week to my grave and I'm very excited for "Into the Abyss." He is an incredible talent.

  • Sept. 10, 2011, 9:48 a.m. CST

    One of the Living Greats

    by IamZardoz

    Ridley Scott Michael Mann Werner Herzog The few directors today who can still make a good movie.

  • Sept. 10, 2011, 5:27 p.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    Go fuck yourself. Thank you and good-night

  • You guys should check out ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. It's one of the top best documentaries i ever seen in my whole life. Amazing. This guy is total talent and total coolness.

  • Sept. 10, 2011, 7:12 p.m. CST

    Agree, asimovlives

    by Manatee

    Encounters is a great flick. Hell, I still think about that crazy little penguin heading towards certain doom. It's hard to think of a more poignant moment in a recent film.

  • Sept. 10, 2011, 9 p.m. CST

    Imagine if Herzog had made Pardise Lost.

    by Tristan

    Would have been amazing, though the docos are very good as they are.

  • Herzog's movies are not good because they are Herzog movies. They are good because they are good movies. Herzog is one of the top best filmmakers alive, regardless of genre or type of movies he makes. Deal with it. Herzog is the real deal.

  • Sept. 11, 2011, 4:40 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    I think Herzog wanted to make a point with that scene, in that, that madness is not just a thing of humans, but exists in nature as well. And to paraquote from GAME OF THRONES, it seems that Herzog had always had a soft spot for dwarves, bastards, cripples and broken things.

  • Sept. 12, 2011, 8:44 p.m. CST

    Herzog's documentaries

    by ChaunceyGardiner

    Herzog's viability as an artist is so deeply embedded in the fact that he continually moves forward, continually takes chances and makes us consider him and his point of view. He is one of the most relentless filmmakers I've ever had the privelege to watch the films of. Even in those that I don't feel completely in tune with, there are still moments of such clarity and originality that it suddenly feels as though some veil has been briefly pulled away, some cloud parted quickly and brokenly to allow a ray of light so bright our bodies react to it. It is amazing to be able to witness a filmmaker still reasserting himself, and not merely as a conjuror or exhibitionists but as a man with a voice that he continually finds filled with things of such significance. He is a gazer of great intensity - and, if we enter into agreement with him, he allows us into this gaze and to see the things that he sees with such newness that the banal and commonplace suddenly reels with deep insight into all things. Watching "Grizzley Man" on home DVD, not really expecting anything besides something entertaining and mind-exciting for merely a few minutes of the day, I found myself drawn into one of the most intimate portrayls of a human being I've ever seen. I try not to speak of souls lightly, but goodness if it seemed as though Herzog brought us into contact with some inner light and darkness that surrounded and eminated from Treadwell, coloured his existence. I felt even at times as though someone had found a portal into my own life and inner fears and at the heart of my own relationships with others and the universe. Astonishing, really. And he did it with a pervasiveness that still was surrounded by gentility, by kindness - as if Treadwell, in hindsight, would have found honour in this portrayl of him. Amazing to be wowed by an artist when you feel you've seen everything he's had to offer. Humbling, too. A hard working man Mr. Herzog is.

  • Sept. 12, 2011, 8:55 p.m. CST

    And, "Land of Silence and Darkness"

    by ChaunceyGardiner

    Is one of the greatest creative contributions to human existence. It is... it has, if any film does, a holiness to it. It affected me in ways I could not possibly comprehend - I was riveted all over, as if electrified. I had to turn it off several times. And now, I feel, I see that it is a film that changed me. Herzog does that, gives himself over to his subject. Like some grand universal tuning fork. Almost feels as if it is not from Earth, but from some heavenly view of us and our earthly form. Viewing it, it felt more than film I was watching. (It prepared me for things I would experience later in life. In a profound way.) It paved the way. Went ahead. Beautiful. A compassionate film if ever there was one. One that, in its way, offers a path of empathy - one of the greatest things a film could ever do.