Into the Abyss: a Tale of Death, a Tale of Life

  • 12
  • Werner Herzog (2011)
  • US / UK / Ger
  • 105 min
Film Review
Reviewed By
4 out of 5

German film-maker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Aguirre, Wrath of God) takes another journey into the darkness of the human soul with this deeply thought-provoking documentary about an American triple murder and its consequences. Although he opposes capital punishment, Herzog remains generally unbiased, delivering a forensic and philosophical examination of the 2001 Texan case that snowballed from an intended car theft and left one of the two teenage perpetrators, Michael Perry, sentenced to death. Via incisive, and occasionally surreal, off-camera probing, a compassionate Herzog draws profundity, candour and even humour from the most unexpected sources, as he interviews those affected by the horrifically pointless crime - including devastated family members on both sides, and the eight-days-away-from-execution Perry - along with those involved in the state killing process. These haunting testimonies, with their poignant litany of tragedy, poverty, hopelessness and regret, hit harder than the grisly police footage also incorporated, and force viewers to face complex questions about society, justice and the sanctity of life.

Plot Summary

Documentary from director Werner Herzog who talks to a death row inmate, days before his execution. He interviews the loved ones, too, and officials within the Texas penal system in an effort to understand what motivates an individual, and the State, to kill.

Cast and crew


Werner Herzog


Werner Herzog

Other Information

Theatrical distributor: 
Available on DVD and BluRay
Released 30 Mar 2012
Certificate 12