TORONTO: Filmmaker Werner Herzog pointed to Nazi Germany on Friday to make his case against capital punishment at a screening of his latest documentary “Into the Abyss,” examining a grisly death penalty case.
“I'm against it, but I don't even have an argument,” he told an audience at the world premiere for his film at the Toronto International Film Festival, adding: “I have a story -- the story of Nazi Germany.”
He pointed to mass executions by the Nazis during the Second World War of people due to their religion, for being disabled or a foreigner.
“No one from my generation, none of my peers, is for capital punishment,” said the 71-year-old German director. “It's as simple as that.”
His new film delves into a “senseless” triple murder of a woman, her son and his friend in Conroe, Texas 10 years ago.
Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, both teenagers at the time, were convicted of the heinous crime that started with the theft of a car for a joyride.
“None of them are monsters,” he said. “The crimes are monstrous, but people are human beings.” Burkett was sentenced to life in prison after an emotional plea from his father, but Herzog's prison interview with Perry took place eight days before his execution on July 1, 2010.
The acclaimed filmmaker does not dispute the evidence in the case or the convictions, but makes a strong case against state-sanctioned killing.
“When I talk to you, it does not necessarily mean that I have to like you,”Herzog tells Perry in the film. “But... I do not think human beings should be executed as simply as that.”
He also interviews Perry's and Burkett's families, the victims' families, policemen and others, taking viewers on a journey through American gothic from posh homes to ramshackle trailers to prison cells, peeling away the cold and compassionate layers of humanity.
Herzog said he is continuing to shoot new material for a television series based on the film that will air on Investigation Discovery next year in the United States.