Texan Gated Community
- Into the Abyss review by joannajuki
Werner Herzog is a bit like a cruel psychiatrist, refusing to offer his viewers any emotional support as he leads them down into the darker labyrinth of the human personality. Thankfully, he never spells out that "It could be you". He remains objective, probing, seeming to almost empathize, to almost offer forgiveness for the perpetrators' bloody murders, but then, almost ruefully stating with abstemiousness to one of the murderers, "I don't have to like you". The boy - he seemed no more than a boy - looked slightly crestfallen for a moment. Perhaps he thought Herzog was more than just a skillful anatomist.
There was quite a lot of footage of the murder scene, the victims and the results of death by violence. But the more disturbing inclusion, and the more shocking, was the wider scope of social landscape.
Here is a woman baking cookies in her big kitchen, in her big house, in her gated community. Here is her blood dragged across the garage floor. Here are the gates banged shut, too late to prevent the crime.
But then the wider pictured- one of the young men victims, who was killed simply for entering the gated community and letting the thieves and murderers through, was also en mired in death and crime. His father had done time for murder, his brother was arrested at his funeral for breaking parole, his grandfather wouldn't accept the $2.00 collect call from the brother to let him know there had been a victim among their own family.
The other young man's sister spoke at length to camera. Virtually every member of her family had died prematurely, from ill health or violence.
It was apparent that both killers (or were there three? It wasn't clear) were guilty. One got death. The other got time, a girlfriend who looked and sounded like a famous French actress, and a baby through artificial insemination and sperm taken out through the prison gates.
The first was goofy-looking and, (since he had found God), lacked any fear of his future. He had a irrepressible smile.
The second, firm, stern and handsome, was where still waters ran deep. His father, also in prison for life for murder, spoke in tears to the jury about the disadvantages and neglect abundant in his childhood, and his own guilt and sorrow for not providing a good family home.
The film was too distant to be moving and made no commentary about the wider social scene. It left me feeling nauseous at the shallowness and brutality of humanity. Its redeeming feature, to dissuade us from capital punishment, was handled lightly. It was most eloquently voiced by an executioner with over a hundred deaths under his belt. Executing his first woman death row prisoner, a prisoner who thanked and forgave him in advance, had given him his first taste of horror.
There was possibility that this man was condemned to die for a crime he hadn't committed, and yet the film succeeded in its aim of convincing the viewer that death row is not a civilized solution to other violent crimes.
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