Magazine article Screen International

Werner Herzog's Death Row Experience

Magazine article Screen International

Werner Herzog's Death Row Experience

Article excerpt

Herzog was at MIPCOM this week discussing his documentary Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale of Life

Werner Herzog's latest existential exploration deals with one of the most contentious political and ethical issues of any time: capital punishment. The film follows the cases of two inmates sentenced to the death penalty and the people in their lives.

Herzog was fascinating as ever in describing his method and ethical stance: "The film is not an instrument for my subjects to prove their innocence... Some subjects I contacted agreed to participate only if I tried to prove their innocence. But that wasn't what I was trying to do. There are attorneys and courts of law for proving innocence and guilt...""The shoot was highly security oriented, I was only allowed three people with me, there were the most rigorous security checks and we were only allowed one hour with each convict. The problem is that you have to find the right tone immediately and to connect with the prisoners immediately."I was looking for crimes that are utterly senseless...I chose my subjects from the internet and wanted to focus on states where the death penalty is practiced. Texas is the overwhelming state for that."When you are talking to someone who is going to die in eight days it is very intense. But I have a duty to shoot my film. The process must be quick. But in editing we have more time to think about it. It is so intense that my editor and I had to start smoking again. We would normally work eight hours on an edit but in this film we could only do five hours because it was so intense."During the MIPCOM conference, Herzog echoed sentiments he also expresses in the for-once-fascinating press notes: "It is absolutely clear that the crimes off the persons in my films are monstrous, but the perpetrators are not monsters. …

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