Death Row: Portrait of James Barnes
“When I talk to you, it does not necessarily mean that I have to like you. But I respect you and you are a human being, and I think human beings should not be executed.” — Werner Herzog
With: James Barnes, Tod Goodyear, Jeannice Barnes
Festivals: Berlin 2012
Conceived alongside the feature Into the Abyss, the Death Row series consists of four riveting hour-long documentaries, each an exemplary, in-depth true crime report in itself. Each is shaped around an interview with a convicted killer (or two) awaiting his or her appointment with a lethal injection. Herzog’s line of enquiry is forthright: how do people, and the state, go about killing other people? What were they thinking then? What are they thinking now? What is even true about the stories they tell? Others connected with the cases – victims, police, lawyers, relatives – are drawn into Herzog’s enquiry.
This session features an interview with James Barnes. In 1988 James Barnes climbed into an apartment building in Melbourne, Florida with the firm intention of raping Patricia Patsy Miller. After the rape, he killed her. When he was finally arraigned for this crime Barnes was already serving a prison sentence for having strangled a woman, but it is only once he finds himself on death row that he admits to having committed other murders. Is his a case of genuine remorse or a ruse to postpone execution?
“Werner Herzog has become the indispensable Virgil of 21st-century film space, the best and most indefatigable guide through wonders and horrors that should astound us and rarely otherwise do… In his latest, Death Row, he succeeds in making the TV-doc dynamic feel fresh, meaningful, and appalling…
The simple approach is… cinema as people telling stories, revealing far more than they mean to. (Crime photos are useful, too.) But Herzog’s inquisitiveness is its own brand, now as always, and though America has been just one detour among many for him, it’s a terrain that comes off more apocalyptically bleak in his gimlet eyes here than in any film since the first Paradise Lost doc.” — Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
PROUDLY SUPPORTED BY GOETHE-INSTITUT