“Michael Perry, we would like to offer our condolences.” These are the first words of the “Into the Abyss” trailer, spoken by Werner Herzog to a young man about to be executed. Few things seem less comforting than the sound of Werner Herzog’s voice before death. But he can’t help it. That’s just how he sounds.
While “The Interrupters” and “Bill Cunningham New York” each got a bump from last week’s Gotham Awards nominations, the stunning trailer for “Into the Abyss” has finally arrived. The fact that Sundance Selects agreed with Herzog’s request to distribute the film on November 11, 2011, rather than the planned 2012 release, shows how immediate and compelling the film is, especially following the recent execution of Troy Davis and the resurgence of dialogue in America about the death penalty. It doesn’t hurt that Herzog’s other 2011 release, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” is the highest grossing documentary of the year so far. That film’s high grosses might have something to do with New York IFC Center’s seeming obligation to keep ‘Cave’ in its theatres in perpetuity (Sixth Smash Month!).
It’s hard to imagine someone looking Werner Herzog in the eye and lying to him, and as a result, the director seems to have gotten right to the core of his subjects. The trailer conveys a great deal of emotion in two and a half minutes. During a conversation with Anne Thompson, Herzog showed disdain for the term “interview” regarding his film, saying, “I do not do interviews. I am not a journalist.” Herzog explained that he hadn’t prepared any questions for the “discourses” (his term) in the film.
The clip features Herzog’s, uh, discourses with two convicted murders, family members of the victims and criminals, and an emotional moment where a former executioner explains that he came to the conclusion that “nobody has the right to take another life.” It looks like it’s going to be an incredible documentary, one that could draw in viewers who usually don’t see DFBWs (documentary, foreign and/or black & white).
It seems someone rushed things in the editing room, as the film’s title is first displayed as “Into the Abyss: A Tale of Life, A Tale of Death” and then in the credit block: “Into the Abyss: A Story of Life, A Story of Death.” The choice between ‘tale’ and ‘story’ is arbitrary, but such a simple inconsistency seems foolish. Plus, a subtitle-less “Into the Abyss” seems perfect, unless James Cameron sent a cease and desist letter because of a making-of special he’s planning for “The Abyss.” So check out the trailer below or in fancy pants HD at Apple. — Ryan Sartor