Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Into the Abyss" (Documentary) (2011) - Movie Review

Metamorphosis is the word I would like to ponder after seeing Werner Herzog’s “Into the Abyss”. The transformation is continuous in the life of ours. We see the immaturity in every phase of our life and we transform with the hopes of bettering ourselves only to be stuck in a different form of immaturity. This never ending process for good or worse happens till death. During this process, people do good, bad, evil and despicable things. The process is simply there and there is so much out of control in this controlled universe and Herzog brings helplessness in a form a peace meal. There is nothing to fight if you accept the eventuality.

Michael Perry and Jason Burkett were convicted of a triple homicide that happened in the October of 2001. Michael Perry got the death row and is eight days away from his execution. Jason Burkett got life sentence. This film is about their guilt, innocence and everything in between. That is Herzog who lets the medium of documentary be what it is. In the purest form of documentary, Herzog is not trying project his understanding or make a statement of his. Whatever one derives from the film is his or her own. The statements and conclusions are their own as it for this reviewer. The man is there to document the victims, the perpetrators, the people that provides a perspective of this. He sees something important that has to be documented in this event of utter tragedy and hopelessness. There are things you might learn, things you would be disgusted, things and people you would hate, things you would cry and wonder the meaning of life. “Into the Abyss” might be the saddest film you will ever see and be enthralled in an experience of the appreciation you begin to have for the life you hold.

Herzog begins the film in the cemetery talking to a Reverend who is going to try his own way of providing peace to the man that will be executed in an hour. The cemetery he stands in front of are the burial grounds of the inmates who were executed and whose bodies were not collected by anyone. Names do not exist and all there is numbers on the tombstone. The Reverend is there to provide the best possible comfort he could to the life that is getting snatched away. We can see the appreciation he has for the life in front of him as the deaths he has seen and sees. We see similar reaction from a former death house team leader Fred Allen.

Michael Perry and Jason Burkett were convicted of murdering a fifty year old Sandra Stotler to steal a Camaro she had in her home. We are told or more so implied why the other two killing happened after that. Perry and Burkett were teenagers when this happened. Both have had a childhood that I cannot imagine or relate to. Nor will I try to imagine it as it is a futile attempt. Similar helplessness occurs when you see the sole survivor of the Stotler family who has lost everything. How can one have so much tragedy in their life and consistently be haunted by it? What kind of universal force we could blame for the misfortune as it might possibly shift some remote sense of pain or burden from her mind? Is not this the ripe time wherein one possibly question the existence of god and everything that arises out of it? All you see is the events of life unfurling itself with no reasons whatsoever.

“Into the Abyss” is a meditation in the chaos that opens up in front of our lives. Tragedy can hit anyone, anytime, anywhere without a warning and all we are left is bewildered human mind’s unwavering quest to find reasons and possibilities. The simplest disappointment brings so much question and investigation to what would have happened or could have been done to avoid that disappointment. Things simply happen and you bloody well deal with it and allow the time to deal with it. Despite all these statements nothing can prepare you or will assist you in going through something like that.

What we see in the brutality of an event is an odd curiosity for Werner Herzog. Do not get him wrong as he is the first person to gravitate on the obviousness and asks questions and states his opinion behind the camera with a shearing clarity and honesty. And for some reason the people he interviews seem to understand this man’s intent as they answer it without hesitation without shred of being offended. He truly has made his intentions so vividly and positively clear that this is more than trust. This film as much tells about this odd mood and philosophical meandering deepens into this man who is able to capture these people’s naked emotions with greatest honesty.

“Into the Abyss” is emotionally charged for obvious reasons but deeply involved for utterly different reasons. This is the kind of film that leaves you to be happy with your life and yet acknowledge the existence of such tragedy and survival of it. It is despair in dissection but provides hope in unusual places. The film gets aided with the eerie mystical score of Mark Degli Antoni which seem to speak the language of Herzog. Here is the man who is on the lookout for seeing the darkness in life for what it is and shed light to expose a different outlook to the audience that are unaffected at that moment. This is a form of film that goes beyond the bounds of criticism or to say whether it is good or bad or emotionally affecting. It is definitely the last one but still, this is beyond being a film. This is a poetry of chaos and order but more than it is a statement of life and death.

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