Brainflow Feed

That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, they revolve mostly around films.)

Into the Abyss

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 12:24 pm—Film

Into the Abyss (USA/UK/Germany 2011, Documentary/Crime), Writer/Director: Werner Herzog

Another beautiful, brilliant work from legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog, the genius behind the documentary Grizzly Man (see the Grizzly Man review from May 2009) and the war drama Rescue Dawn (see the Rescue Dawn review from November 2008).

Into the Abyss is, as its subtitle spells out, “A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life.” It’s a compelling documentary about the crimes of Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, and the aftermath of their actions. Both men were convicted of a triple homicide in 2001 in Conroe, Texas. Perry received a death sentence (which was carried out on July 1, 2010), Burkett a life sentence.

Perry was executed just eight days after Herzog interviewed him. Before and after the execution, Herzog picked up powerful footage of the people who were touched by the murders. We hear from Perry and Burkett, but also near-victims of the crimes, the families left behind, Burkett’s wife and convict father, and, hauntingly, a former Death House Captain who finally forfeited his pension to quit his job early because he couldn’t bear to take any more lives.

Sometimes Herzog shows us imagery, mainly of the places Perry was executed and the victims were murdered. But for the most part, he just steps back and lets the people and their stories speak for themselves. And they do, resoundingly.

Herzog created such an effective film in part because he asks excellent questions. But more importantly, he listens very well. To hear what Into the Abyss is saying, that’s all you have to do.

Everyone who speaks to Herzog’s camera, and to us, demonstrates the importance of compassion, that we are all connected, and that we’re more alike than different. The murderers, the survivors, those who raised them, the people who love them and those who hate them, the people who support capital punishment and those who don’t; Herzog lets us see why his subjects feel the way they do.

There may be evil in the world, but you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll find people, all with different backgrounds and circumstances—some who had the odds tragically stacked against them from birth, and some who dealt with it better than others.

All you have to do to understand is listen.

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