Into the Abyss will take you into a deep depression, so schnell to the cinema!"

"/> Netflix Finds: Into the Abyss — The Airship
By Sarah Bennett

And my imaginary pull quote on the poster would read, "Into the Abyss will take you into a deep depression, so schnell to the cinema!"

I know it wouldn’t exactly lead to a surge in subscriptions, but Netfilx can and should claim the slogan, “Your number one source for the head-scratchingly fascinating documentaries of Werner Hertzog.” The German director’s biggest hit in the US seems to be Grizzly Man, his 2005 documentary about bear-lover/victim, Timothy Treadwell, but Netflix has much more Hertzog to offer, and one of the oddest of the unofficial “Hertzog does America” series has to be 2011’s Into The Abyss, his film about the two men who committed a triple murder in Texas, one of whom sits on death row. “Death row documentaries” could easily be it’s own Netflix genre (with “wrongfully convicted” and “Texas” making up the bulk of its sub-topics), but what sets Into The Abyss apart is the Hertzog-iness of it all; how he inserts himself into his films with his blunt, Germanic voice, which he never edits out of interviews and often chimes in with running narration, as if he were doing director’s commentary as he was filming. Upon meeting Michael Perry, the death row prisoner, Hertzog says, “We would like to offer our condolences,” and from the look on Perry’s face, you can’t tell whether he’s shocked that someone would address his upcoming execution so bluntly, or whether, due to Hertzog’s accent and delivery, he’s trying to figure out whether the comment is sarcastic. Unlike most death row documentaries, it’s not the subjects’ guilt that’s being examined—it’s fairly clear they murdered three people in the name of stealing a hot rod—but the death penalty itself, and it’s to Hertzog’s credit that he can make the murderers guilt so plain while keeping the issue of their punishment debatable. Into the Abyss manages to be both heavy-handed and subtle at the same time, much like Hertzog himself.