Into the Abyss (Herzog, 2011): BFI Southbank, NFT Studio, 8.50pm
Time Out review:
'Think of Herzog and you think of monomania.
He tends towards stories of single-minded individuals embarking upon
insane projects to bend an indifferent world to their desires, or facing
off against preposterous odds in pursuit of brute survival. Beneath
such tales is the tug of ecstasy – a rapturous state of standing outside
the self whose dark twin is a kind of obscene oblivion, an intimation
of existential futility that links Kaspar Hauser and the unknown artists
of last year’s ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’. ‘Into the Abyss’ is a
Herzog film focused not on an individual but a situation: the conviction
of two men for the horribly banal 2001 murder of a Texan nurse, her son
and his friend, and the impending execution of one of those convicted.
As well as interviewing the prisoners, Herzog talks to their loved ones;
to the victims’ families; and to people in Texas’s capital punishment
system. The result is gripping, moving and revelatory, an
unabashed if implicit critique of the death penalty. The abyss looms
dark indeed but the picture pulses with the insistent peculiarities of
life as it is lived by wilful individuals. For while Herzog shows
appropriate sobriety, he couldn’t make a solemn film if he tried: the
most moving observation comes in an anecdote about a squirrel and a golf
Here is the trailer.