So indieWIRE has three lovely interns here in Toronto – Derek, Oliver and Claire – all of whom are alums of Picton Picturefest’s youth retreat. Since I’m kind of overwhelmed with work outside of keeping this blog up to date, I’m going to hand it over to them to write basically whatever they want. First off, Derek takes on Werner Herzog’s “Into The Abyss” in this review:
Into The Abyss examines the frailty and darkness of life; the film teeters between these themes to a touching and poignant accuracy. Director Werner Herzog is no stranger to the documentary genre, and with Into The Abyss he demonstrates a careful manipulation of his camera and interviewees, weaving a deeply engaging, wrenching story.
The film’s plot centers around the convicts of a Texas death row, specifically the case of Michael Perry, sentenced to death for a triple murder of a mother and two teens in their rural southern town. Herzog interviews all those attached, in whatever minute way, to the victims and their murderers. Into The Abyss is separated into six different sections, examining not only the various intricacies of the crime and American capital punishment; each act has a specific emotional feel that is singular and striking.
The film making is subtle and elegant. Herzog uses sparse music selection, leaving the haunting speech of his interviewees to dominate most of the film. On a specific note, during these interviews I noticed a gentle use of zoom. The camera would pan ever so slightly and create a remarkably powerful effect. Whomever’s face would expand into almost like a portrait, his or her dark stories and testimony taking on an enhanced impact.
One complaint, though, is the film’s length. Near its end Into The Abyss feels as though it has overstayed its welcome. There were moments at the three-quarter mark which I felt could have made for a more poignant final shot or sequence, yet other, nearly bloated aspects of its story went on to be explored.
Going into this film I had not the expectations for such a gripping experience. What Herzog derives from those he consults are profound meditations on life and death, delicately woven into a wholly dark subject matter. During its duration I could not wonder whether to cry or shudder.