Werner Herzog’s New ‘Into the Abyss’ Poster: First Look (Exclusive)

Director says he’s anti-death penalty, while calling the convicts in his death-row doc “human beings, not monsters”

Last Updated: October 26, 2011 @ 12:05 PM

Werner Herzog's "Into the Abyss" is the second high-profile 2011 documentary to focus on a murder for which men were sentenced to death.

But it's a far cry from "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," the Joe Berlinger/Bruce Sinofsky doc that will play on HBO in the aftermath of the release of its subjects after decades in prison.

Werner Herzog"Into the Abyss" follows a Texas case in which there will be no last-minute reprieve; one of its two subjects was executed for a senseless triple homicide eight days after Herzog filmed him, and the other is serving a life sentence.

The tough and powerful film features Herzog's interviews with the two convicted killers, as well as with their family and the kin of their two victims.

Other interviews include a  death-house chaplain who unexpectedly breaks down when recounting a seemingly innocent story about encountering a squirrel on the golf course.

"Everybody tells me that these crimes are monstrous, and that these men are monsters who deserve to be killed off," Herzog told TheWrap in a recent interview. "I respectfully disagree. Correct, the crimes are monstrous, but the perpetrators are just human beings who have done something senseless, violent, evil.

"They are still human, and they are not monsters. I treat them as human beings, and I do not believe that the government should have the power to execute anyone."

The film, which is subtitled "A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life," will be released on November 11 by IFC/Sundance Selects; TheWrap has the premiere of its new poster:

Into the Abyss poster

The film, said Herzog, was designed to "look into the deepest recesses of the human soul" — though that's certainly something he's done with regularity throughout his career of more than 40 years.

"Let's face it, quite a few of my films could have had the title 'Into the Abyss,'" he said. "That's a title you could have had for the cave film ["Cave of Forgotten Dreams"], actually. 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' could have had that title."

A useful title for his inevitable retrospective, then?

"Oh, we shouldn’t talk about that," Herzog said quickly. "I hear you, but it entered one ear and went out the other."