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.