This documentary looks at Aileen Wuornos convicted of killing 7 men while working as a prostitute in Florida. This is actually the second Wuornos documentary made by this group the first being Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992). With her execution now on the horizon Nick Broomfield returns to Florida to complete the story. Her argument has always been that the killings were in self-defense but she eventually pleaded no contest or guilty to most of the murders. Broomfield was able to film several interviews which reveals her state of mind and puts into question her mental competence.Written by
Performed by Natalie Merchant
Written by Natalie Merchant
(c) 1995 Indian Love Bride
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The documentary `Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer' provides an interesting companion piece to `Monster,' the film that earned Charlize Theron the Academy Award for Best Actress of 2003. This is actually the second documentary British filmmaker Nick Broomfield has made about Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who was executed in Florida in 2002 for the murders of seven of her johns during the late 1980's. His first film on the subject was made in 1992 during Aileen's initial trial. Now, ten years later, he is back recording Aileen's final days, trying to get her to reveal the unvarnished truth about what really happened all those years ago.
Broomfield does not pretend to be totally fair and unbiased in his presentation of the case. He is clearly sympathetic to Aileen and is not shy about voicing his own opposition to the death penalty. Nevertheless, the film he has made offers a meaningful glimpse into the mind of a killer, as well as the role that the legal system and the media play in sensational murder cases. Broomfield spends much of his time visiting Aileen's childhood home, interviewing people close to her, chronicling the events of the trial, and documenting Aileen's time in prison. But the most compelling scenes are those in which he interviews Aileen herself, prodding her to open up and reveal whether she committed the murders out of self-defense as she claims or whether she killed her victims to steal their money as the prosecution successfully argued. The main bone of contention between filmmaker and subject centers around the first killing. Through footage taken at her trial, Broomfield shows how, on the witness stand, Aileen wove a compelling and convincing tale of how that first murder came about. According to Aileen, her first victim was attacking and raping her, causing her to reach into her purse, grab her pistol and shoot him dead. Indeed, this is the way in which `Monster' portrays the scene as occurring. Yet, in 2002, Broomfield captures a much different account, as Aileen confesses point blank to the camera that the story was a bald-faced lie she came up with to engender sympathy for herself with the jury (it clearly didn't work). Later in the film, however, Aileen reverses the story again and implies that the first killing was indeed an act of self-defense.
`Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer' is a depressing and disturbing film on a number of levels. First, it places us face-to-face with the incomprehensible mindset of a cold-blooded murderer. Aileen comes across at times as warm and rational, honest about her guilt and repentant for the pain she's caused. At other times, she explodes in anger at friend and foe alike, cusses a blue streak, calls vile curses down on those she feels have wronged her, and blames everyone but herself for the fate that has befallen her. Second, the film makes us question whether one can ever really know if a person is telling the truth, even under oath. Third, it makes us wonder just how many people there are out there whose messed-up lives and upbringings can lead to this type of dangerous antisocial behavior. Fourth, Aileen's clear and intense paranoia even up to the day of her execution she was convinced that the police knew all about her killings long before they brought her in and let her go on killing so that they could get rich off her story - clearly raises questions as to just how `sane' she really was when the state of Florida sent her to her death. Though, by the end, Broomfield is generally convinced that Aileen was a pathological liar and most likely guilty of first degree murder, he does not let all the other parties in the case off the hook that easily. He is quick to point out the shoddy defense she received in her original trial, as well as the way in which many of her closest friends and even some Florida law enforcement officials made money off her by selling her story to various media outlets. This film offers a stinging indictment of all the parties involved in this case.
One could wish for a little less personal involvement on the part of the filmmaker. Too often we feel that he has sacrificed his objectivity, that he isn't providing us with all the angles on the story we need to render a fair and reasonable judgment. For instance, he spends virtually no time interviewing the loved ones of the men Aileen slaughtered. Still, if you've seen `Monster,' `Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer' will provide further insight into that film's dark subject. It will also show you just how extraordinary a job Theron did in capturing the real woman at the story's core.
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