Sunday 15 April 2012

INTO THE ABYSS - Curzon On Demand review

If you're like me and live in the wilderness known as 'outside of London', sometimes it can be a hard life being a fan of independent film, having to wait an age for these smaller titles to make their way to your local art house cinema. Thankfully, the Curzon group of cinemas have launched an online streaming service that might save me having to wait for the circuit to reach my location or even the (often quicker) DVD release. To set itself apart from Netflix and Lovefilm, they offer an "In Cinemas - On Curzon" service of streaming high definition films the same day as their theatrical release, meaning Curzon On Demand might just change the way we get to experience independent film.

Promising a "virtual passport to the very best in independent film", Curzon On Demand certainly has an impressive roster of films to choose from. With a catalogue that includes films that are on screen at Curzon Cinema now such as Werner Herzog's Into The Abyss (the film I chose as my maiden voyage with the service), recent art house hits like We Need to Talk About Kevin, Wuthering Heights and The Deep Blue Sea and hard to find indie films like Aki Kaurismaki's Lights in the Dusk, there's a great choice for those who missed the films on their first run, or just want to revisit them from the comfort on their own home.
Well, actually, wanting to be "more than just a home cinema experience", now you can access the service on mobile devices like iPads and iPhones, so you can have your own personal independent cinema wherever you want, really. Although it's a service that's open to everyone, if you are a frequent visitor to a Curzon Cinema and already a member, you do get a nice little discount off the film's rental price too. A brilliant resource for those, like me, who don't want to wait for the circuit to reach them, Curzon On Demand is available to all independent film lovers now. Head over to the site to check out their selection.

Werner Herzog's Into The Abyss tells the story of how, back in Texas in 2001, Michael Perry and a group of friends tried to steal a car and ended up killing three people before being arrested after a police shoot out, Herzog holds conversations with the killers and picks over the finer points of an unglamourous and very small town murder.
It's fair to say that Werner Herzog is a master documentarian, and one who's not afraid to lay his cards on the table from the start. In conversation with the incarcerated Michael Perry 8 days before his execution date he states early on, "when I talk to you, it does not mean I have to like you. But you are a human being and human beings should not be executed". It's refreshing to hear such frank honesty from a filmmaker from the outset, but then Werner Herzog was never one to sit on the fence.

There's something unnervingly comforting about Herzog's voice. With his gentle Germanic tones he's able to ask some incredibly upfront questions to his subjects and get real, honest answers out of them without them being in the least bit offended. When he asks a prison inmate who was taken to his new facility along with his child "how does it feel like to be handcuffed to your own son?", Herzog manages to draw out the mans sadness and feelings of history repeating itself. Although Herzog remains off screen throughout the film, his presence and influence over his subjects is obvious.
Tragic, haunting and downright sad, Into The Abyss captures the futility of death and the lives of the mixed-up young men who were involved in this case. Clear about its pro-life stand point, it's a powerful film that fleshes out the details of a case that would probably not even make national news under normal circumstances, but by showing the us the lives it has affected, is undoubtably moving.

Into The Abyss is now in cinemas and available on the Curzon On Demand streaming service.

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