Into the Abyss

Into the Abyss

By Werner Herzog

  • Genre: Werner Herzog
  • Release Date: 2011-11-11
  • Advisory Rating: 15
  • Runtime: 1h 47min
  • Director: Werner Herzog
  • Production Company: Creative Differences
  • iTunes Price: GBP 3.99
  • iTunes Rent Price: GBP 0.99
From 168 Ratings


Werner Herzog's latest stunning documentary focuses on the bleak yet fascinating subject of capital punishment, following the moving story of Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, two young men who were found guilty of three capital murders. Perry was executed eight days after filming commenced while Burkett was sentenced only to life in prison. Unravelling the crime and trial from separate viewpoints, including the victim's families and prison staff, Herzog's masterful exploration of life on Death Row shows the devastating effects on all involved. Winner of the Grierson Award for Best Documentary at this year's London Film Festival, 'Into The Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life' ranks among the director's finest works to date.




  • Good documentary but defeats its purpose

    By Loveit7789
    Not quite up to his usual standard - and as a polemic against the death penalty it fails utterly. The perpertrators are never really tackled about the crime itself and more importantly their quite obvious lack of guilt over it. They of course are more concerned with their own fate than that of their three innocent victims and as always the most distasteful thing about those who commit these unspeakable acts is their utter refusal to take responsibility for them. The most telling part of the whole film for me is when herzog asks the daugther and sister of two of the victims what seeing the death sentence carried out actually meant. She said it was like a weight lifting off her - the obvious inference being that vengeance, whatever else it may be, brings a fleeting relief from the anguish caused by those that committed the crime. My view is that if that is the only useful purpose served by the death penalty then it is a useful purpose. Great documentary but I felt it missed an opportunity to really probe the nature of the crime it sought to investigate and the nature of those who committed it. The interviews with the former executioner seemed tacked on to an extent in a somewhat obvious and belated attempt to make a point. As a whole it left me feeling as if justice had been done.
  • Great docum

    By Maupaws
    It was a very good documentary . I totally agree that no human being should be killed as a punishment because as the human beings doing the exception, we are not free of mistakes. If there is a risk that 1 life can be taken away wrongly, the system should stop killing people.
  • Outstanding

    By Scrufffffffffff
    Such a thought provoking documentary, which is beautifully crafted together about such an awful subject matter.
  • Powerful

    By NickVas
    Very interesting docu-film about capital punishment. The visual style and people interviewed make this incredibly thought provoking.
  • Slow, deceptively simple, genius.

    By ramamarx
    Agree with Loveit that if nothing else the death penalty at least brings some chance for victims' families to have a sense of closure. I'm of the personal view, though, that the film wants to deal with the death penalty without any partisanship, so perhaps couldn't, or rather didn't want to focus on the specifics in this case; although to be fair there is a huge amount of information and enough for the viewer to be sure about obvious guilt. Overall, it's a slow burner and seems to deal with its subject matter in the usual hackneyed, almost trite way anything to do with the death penalty now is but it has huge depth that you'll appreciate only after you've watched it and let it all sink in. Herzog uses his usual genius of coaxing his subjects into revealing a very complete, often hugely contradicting and very complex picture of themselves without ever pushing or manipulating them - he just puts the camera on, chats to them, and lets them put it altogether. In much the same way as 'Grizzly Man', you get shown characters that seem initially shallow, possibly even a little crazy, or 'typical American' and yet, somehow, they stay with you for a long time after and beyond this tragedy you see not a polemic on morality, or the rights of victims or killers, or any of the usual back and forth from the pro- and anti- groups, but a truly tragic, very human story about victims on all sides although, most significantly, not the killers themselves. Children from violent homes, cycles of murder and prison for both victim's and murderer's families, the struggles of conscience for guards and priests who appear visibly deeply troubled by their respective callings, and, in a stroke of almost breath-taking brilliance, a final scene with the deluded, fantasist girlfriend of one killer staring lovingly at an ultrasound photograph of their unborn child. This isn't really a film about the death penalty; it's about children and how life can chew them up, spit them out, and how they in turn will do it to their own. You won't feel the sort of sympathy you might have had for Treadwell in 'Grizzly Man' but you will be left almost in awe of Herzog's ability to bring all this out without you needing one second of empathy for any of them. The killers don't get an ounce of sympathy or 'understanding' but neither do their many victims both murdered, bereaved, born and unborn - this is a portrait of life, raw, unrelenting and almost numbingly tragic. Herzog at his brilliant best but be warned it's slow moving, no-one in it is particularly likeable but only because you are being given as clear and as unfetered a perspective as possible so you can see how deeply complex this issue actually is - it may not make you support the death penalty but it most certainly will allow you to consider just what it both takes and means to be a victim. Five stars for one of the greats of modern film. Highly recommended.
  • This will haunt you

    By FilmJunkie00
    Chilling and intense! Worth a rent.
  • Watch this!

    By Gcun
    Uncomfortable viewing but gives both sides a voice. Most sympathy goes to the victims daughter she comes across very well considering her tragic circumstances. She is rational and factual. Sad, sad story. All this for a car!
  • Werner Herzog at his absolute best!!!!!!!!!

    By TrueFilmFan
    Haunting, gripping, tense and mesmerising. This is Werner Herzog's finest documentary to date. A true work of art.
  • Woah

    By Sarah Bevis
    It's so good to see into this and all the people involved/effected with the death penalty
  • worse so far !

    By shiko_m
    i was quite surprised to watch such bad documentary delivered by Werner herzog. i think that is his worse movie so far. sorry, but Herzog has much better work !