Human sacrifice on film
Into the Abyss (2011)
How many people really feel safer because Texas executes convicted murderers? Difficult to ascertain. And how many are only too happy to step out of the way when Texas authorities put somebody to rest for whatever reason? Just about everybody -- to oppose this swollen tide is utterly pointless. It is no accident that pistol-packin' Texas kills. Its homicidal behavior accuses the rest of American humanity of hypocrisy. Everybody wishes somebody would be executed from time to time. Few are so base as to act upon this wayward wishfulness. Michael Perry says on film that he didn't do it. A likely story, sure, but the audience is not going to sift through public records and read transcripts to find out. And yes, there are well-documented miscarriages of justice from which innocents were perfunctorily dispatched. Into the Abyss (2011) introduces the viewer to a world of pain in small-town America. People kill people, and it is hard to differentiate between lawbreakers and law enforcers, sometimes, except on the basis of style.
Lest the victim be forgotten, in this case, certainly, she is not to blame. She owned a car that Perry and his accomplice wanted. End of story. There is plenty of blood left over in various camera shots from the terrible event in 2001 to serve up a substantial helping. But it will likely as not not be accepted as a full meal by the tv and movie crowd. There is no lush orchestral funeral dirge, or dazzling micro-close-ups to pull back from, no velvety movements, ever so gentle, flitting from one splash to another. Instead, compositions are hand-held, low-budget material that seems to define, as of late, the work of veteran filmmaker Werner Herzog.
Film enthusiasts are well-acquainted with Fata Morgana, Caspar Hauser, Woyzeck, Heart of Glass, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Nosferatu, and Fitzcarraldo. They always found time in between the more major motion pictures to work these cinematic gems in. IMDB informs us that Herzog's oeuvre is quite extensive; all the same, his most avid fans are more apt than not to pass up Grizzly Man, a documentary, which, even if seeing is believing, nonetheless strains credulity. Still, Herzog plods onward. He is also an occasional commentator on Americana, and in this regard his forays into various issues significantly supplement whatever else is available to people with which to opine.
To be sure, capital punishment is a controversial subject. Herzog states in the beginning that he is against it. From here on, the viewer is inundated with dates and descriptions and recollections that may or may not add up. What does eventually come unambiguously to light is that there is trouble in middle America, and putting death row convicts on gurneys, strapping them down, and then injecting fluids into their veins is not going to solve a thing. It does, however, cause the vengeful to feel better, and this is perhaps all that the film lacks. Surely, some loved ones and supporters of state-sponsored executions are elated each time a prisoner is, supposedly, brought to justice.
As to Perry, his execution of July 1st, 2010 takes place in all of sixteen minutes. Gone. The comparison to human sacrifice is inevitable. Perhaps the urge to find ways to continue the practice has re-directed those so inclined toward capital crime. Convictions makes it okay. Generally, the more innocent the victim, the more effective the sacrifice -- hence virgins and infants. Now, the culpability of the victim might be an unfortunate allowance advocates of human sacrifice must make to appease the do's and don'ts of modern society. Then again, to reiterate, Perry said he didn't do it. No one will ever know. This is a hard subject, difficult to understand, and one interviewed worker, whose job it was to tie down left legs on the gurney-to-heaven, simply took off, leaving his job and pension. Very probably viewers will have to follow suit and just walk away -- whether pro, con, or undecided.