German screenwriter, film producer and director Werner Herzog's seventh short documentary which he created and narrated is a television mini-series in four parts which was produced by Creative Differences Productions, Spring Films and Werner Herzog Film Production. It was screened in the Berlinale Special section at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival, had it's television premiere on Investigation Discovery and is a USA-UK-Austria co-production which was filmed at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit prison in Texas, USA.
In this non-activist and non-political documentary which is a companion piece to Werner Herzog's 2011 documentary feature "Into the Abyss", the remarkable filmmaker goes even further into the minds of five convicted killers who are serving their sentences inside supermax prisons and makes it clear that he is not trying to humanize them, he doesn't have to like them and that what he is most interested in is what they feel about knowing how and when they are going to die. In a very unsentimental and straightforward manner, Werner Herzog instigates in-depth conversations with a woman named Linda Carty and four men named James Barnes, Joseph Garcia, George Rivas and Hank Skinner who very frankly tells him about their life on death row, their dreams, their prospects and the horrendous and meaningless crimes that has estranged them furthermore from life and brought them closer to death.
Through insightful and rare interviews with family members, accomplices, defence attorneys, prosecutors, journalists and police officers, this nonfictional work creates multiple viewpoints and numerous unsettling, tragic and incomparable portraits of human beings which in some ways are given a prolonging of their last words. While notable for it's distinct cinematography by Austrian cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger and the obscure score by American composer Mark degli Antoni which emphasizes the poignant atmosphere, this informative and reflective examination of the absurdities of life respectfully puts the practice of capital punishment into a broader context. Another commendable achievement from a great storyteller.
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