In his fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Grizzly Man) probes the human psyche to explore why people kill—and why a state kills. In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen), Herzog achieves what he describes as “a gaze into the abyss of the human soul.” Herzog’s inquiries also extend to the families of the victims and perpetrators as well as a state executioner and pastor who’ve been with death row prisoners as they’ve taken their final breaths. As he’s so often done before, Herzog’s investigation unveils layers of humanity, making an enlightening trip out of ominous territory.
"In Werner Herzog’s new documentary, INTO THE ABYSS, sorrow spreads like an oil slick on water. The movie finds, in a relatively banal, thoroughly senseless American story of crime and punishment, enough darkness to make you wonder about the title. Is death, which unites murderers with their victims and executioners, and ultimately with everyone else, the abyss that Mr. Herzog wants us to contemplate? Or is he directing our attention toward a black hole that sits in the middle of life?
"The paradox of this film is that it is both unremittingly bleak and rigorously humane. Mr. Herzog, interviewing killers, survivors, witnesses and officials in law enforcement and corrections, is polite even when asking uncomfortable questions, and the seriousness of his intentions allows humor and absurdity to bubble up amid all the pain. He never appears on camera, but his unmistakable voice — dry, precise, carrying the accent of his native Bavaria — ties together this tapestry of conflicting testimony, inchoate emotion and unredeemed ugliness." - New York Times
"On one level, the film is an appeal to end capital punishment, but it's not the kind of documentary that drives policy change. The thoughtful helmer's probing death-row doc offers no statistics, no dramatic reenactments, no angry ultimatum lobbed at lawmakers -- just testimony from convicted killers, the victim's families and several cogs in Texas' criminal justice system. As one of cinema's most intellectually curious directors, Herzog can be trusted to ask the right questions of his subjects -- despite the fact he's clearly unyielding in his anti-death penalty stance. The case against execution is only a tiny sliver of his inquiry, however, with the testimony he collects opening several rich veins of philosophical reflection." Variety