Herzog turns his uncanny gaze to the normalcy of capital punishment - stirring up emotions long left dormant and repressed. Into the Abyss features one of my most moving moments in movie history: "Tell me about an encounter with a squirrel," and a man dissolves on camera. I always do, too.
Captivating. I would've liked to learn more about Melyssa Burkett née Thompson and her particular … ah, psychological profile. Still, even if one didn't know Herzog's oeuvre ("The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they sing. They just screech in pain…"), his including her account of a prison yard rainbow, her slightly off affect, against the brutality of the murders speaks volumes.
Werner Herzegovina is a master of the frame. No matter what the subject there is that mysterious something that he manages to catch in every shot and every take that elevates his films from the mundane to the mystical. Most of all he invites us patiently to look into the depths of people and things until what is below the surface is finally revealed.
This film is harsh and bleak, fitting to the subject material. Only Herzog is able to show realities like this with the right balance of earnest inquisitiveness and lurid beauty as he always does. His craft in the cinematography makes the film just gut wrenching to watch, though all the more worthwhile. This may be a minor Herzog film, but just as deserving of anyone's time.
"Please describe an encounter with a squirrel." A subject matter fitted perfectly for Herzog's love of questioning the meaning of life, death and the misery of both. The film is dark and depressing but ultimately has a lot to say about the topic of capital punishment itself.
It strikes me as somewhat perverse to make a film in such enclosed interiors when one is arguably the greatest director of landscapes alive. However, Herzog moves where his curiosity takes him & always brings some illumination with him. I was a troubled by Herzog's interview claim that Michael Perry was the most dangerous person he has ever met - his intuition has turned increasingly to moral certainty, I feel.
Radiograph of a brutal murder, cartography of the nooks of the heart, kaleidoscope of the human soul. The merit of Herzog's doc is having laid bare the intricate map of emotions surrounding this apparently senseless atrocity so that the viewer can find a compelling facet of what is to be truly human at every turn of the way.