Confronting Ourselves

The new film of well known filmmaker Werner Herzog is about those who live on death row in the United States. Herzog, 69, says that the purpose is to humanize murderers not to excuse their crimes. “The crimes of the persons in the film are monstrous, but the perpetrators are not monsters.” To illustrate the people in his film have indeed committed horrible crimes, like that of Linda Carty who in order to steal a newborn horribly murdered the parents. The film also includes not often confronted realities such as the feelings of Hank Skinner convicted of killing his girlfriend and her two mentally impaired sons. At one point he got a reprieve 23 minutes before a scheduled execution and is able to record his feelings right before he thought he was going to die.
Herzog himself is firmly against the death penalty and thinks it reminiscent of the millions killed by the Nazis in his native Germany. “A state should not be allowed—under any circumstance—to execute anyone for any reason,” he said in a statement.
It’s easy for forget that death row inmates have a human side, that the death penalty may say more about our society than those who have committed crimes, and a film like that of Herzog’s helps us confront ourselves.