I love cultural differences. Especially between the liberal Western world and the good old regime bound Eastern bit. The stories about the wonderful “promised land” and the belief that the grass really is much greener on the opposite shore of the big blue puddle called ocean, have been like a little re-occurring piece of thread through my childhood. Growing up in the cut out society forced to believe whatever was being fed by government propaganda, has given me rather sarcastic and maybe even cynical way of looking at things. The perception of happiness and good life wasn’ t something shown on TV. It seemed too dreamy to be true and cartoons about little lost hedgehogs in the fog stumbling across to white horse felt like trustworthy piece of information. It has to be said that if I watch the animation now, I am wondering how on earth was this shown to children and I am truly questioning the sobriety of the cartoon makers. But that’ s that.

I guess the point what I am trying to make is the fact that for someone who comes from the society of weird mind games, it is difficult to see the sincere side of Americanized culture and their point of view to life. This however makes me ask – how can nation so big in the West Side of the world (my mum once told me, it is rude to point a finger at someone, so therefore, I am not going to do this) end up in so much worse situation than the weird screwed up Eastern block? They had the freedom! What went wrong?

I am not quite sure if I’m rather happy or sad that I have seen Werner Herzog’s Into The Abyss recently. After the Cave of Forgotten Dreams and the Grizzly Man I was almost expecting something more. The documentary focuses on the case of capital punishment and follows the lives and crimes of 2 particular guys: Michael Perry and Jason Burkett. Herzog has unraveled the subject from different viewpoints, including the victim’ s families, the boy’s own families, trial issues and by prison staff. Now, I can agree with the importance of the subject, however I am not completely sure the film was a masterpiece as it was advertised to be. I don’ t have anything to say about the concept or the way Herzog has brought the story to us. It is more about the individuals in the actual documentary.  The first thing that unsettled the mind was the statement by pastor talking about how he had to meditate to deal with the issue.

Christianity vs Buddhism.
But never allow these two terms in the same sentence together and hope European viewer will forget and let it slide. This is strike one.

Strike two:  victim’ s sister. The suffering creature. Someone talking about all those horrific things that have happened in their life with tear sparkling in the corner of the eye. The show! The waking of the emotions and pressing on compassion button. Classical string to pull in the hands of the puppet master.

Yes, this might be sincere, but doesn’ t common psychology say that the more harsh the crime is the harder it is to talk about? It seemed like the victim was changed and all of the sudden “sister” becomes the main sufferer who is clearly trying to get her 30 seconds of fame, or to make a point to someone by showing that she is “the true American and she can talk about things like this”. I do apologize about this rather strong generalization what comes to this extravertism (pretty sure I just made up this word), but sometimes one needs to be subtle to make a point and come across believable.

Strike three: the spitting friend and pregnant legal girlfriend.
Do you really spit during the interview and looking in random directions?
Do you answer to the questions simply by saying: “Yeah, I sure do, sir!”
If you fall in love with a death row inmate, would you sit in front of the camera patting the belly and saying it is God’ s will?

I am too judgmental and maybe even rude.
I’m not religious nor easily convinced by the fact that all I see is pure truth. I guess one thing Herzog did brilliantly though, was to make one wonder if this hour and a half was a charade or sincere story telling. And if it really was sincere then what happens to people who really believe everything it was said in the film? Do the main characters of the documentary believe they come across sincere?

Maybe it is the bitterness and the sarcastic view to life in me that refuses to believe everything I saw exactly as it was served. Maybe this was the point of the whole documentary? Maybe I would need to be an American to realize the importance? Maybe I shouldn’ t have gone to see it?

No, one’ s for sure – Herzog has managed to create something that unsettles the mind and the 3 awards for his work are not for nothing. The man has a point in his creation. What the point exactly is will be left to decide for every individual.

When in the beginning I questioned if the documentary was worthy of my time then now, in the end,  I feel privileged to have seen it in the way I have. It made me think. Go…watch it. Make up your mind and maybe we can then play the game of…


I will be waiting here with my boxing gear on.