On Werner Herzog's New Film, "Into the Abyss," and the One Currently Opening Wide Its Maw at Penn State

So I teach at Penn State, a position which will be uncomfortable to admit for some time. Suffice to say it’s been one bizarre, disheartening week. I’ll let others shout bromides about the charges and the conduct of officials, but I will suggest some understanding for the plight of our students: The night JoePa was fired, people were upset, and understandably so. Most of the students in the crowds outside were simply there to see what was happening. No one can quite believe it. Jack Cafferty called them “punks” who should be expelled from the university. What about some compassion? A man they’ve admired for years, for generations even, has been brought down, and they don’t know what to make of it. The overturning of a news van is wrong, of course. But it’s not so difficult to understand: They’re lashing out at the public spectacle that our campus has become. I’m ashamed of it, and I know most of us are. But the protests aren’t motivated by simply some kneejerk adoration of football, good God. They’re people, young people, who are seeing their heroes brought down. It hurts. We’re all blindsided.
So in this light, along comes a new film titled Into the Abyss by the great Werner Herzog, on crime and punishment in Texas, about a death penalty case, no less. Just last May I blogged about the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a fantastic film that it seems no one else saw; no one I know, anyway. Here’s the Times review of Into the Abyss. I’m seeing it first chance I get.

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