September 9, 2011

THE BIJOU @ TIFF: Werner Herzog’s “Into the Abyss”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Welcome to SHOWBUZZDAILY’s coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival, where the reviews will be as plentiful as we can cram into a week.
TIFF started things off on a less-than-festive note with Werner Herzog’s documentary “Into the Abyss,” The title isn’t kidding: this is the story of a meaninglessly brutal triple murder committed in Texas in 2000 (all for the sake of a Camaro), and the resulting fallout as it’s affected the families of the victims, the convicted killers, and their own families.

Herzog isn’t interested in the details of the crimes, or even who pulled the trigger. He’s fascinated by lives blighted by delusion and death, a list that comes to include even the prison guards who have to deal with the condemned prisoners. Although the film isn’t political per se, it opposes the death penalty as a system that merely widens the circle of pointless death.
Much of this is fascinating–one can’t help but be riveted by interviews with a death row inmate conducted 8 days before his execution. And the struggle of these people to find some kind of redemption, even by way of a jailhouse groupie, can be heartbreaking. It’s all rather relentless, though, both in tone and imagery–aside from a few pensive shots of a prison cemetery, fences and the execution chamber, the film is almost totally composed of talking-head interviews. The result is worthy, but not likely to lure much of a mainstream audience.
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About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."