4 February 2012 | rooprect
Sympathy for the Devil
Like the great Rolling Stones song in my title, this sobering film forces us to question what is evil, and what is humankind's role in creating it?
Like many of you, I'm assuming, I became interested in the story of Aileen Wurnos after seeing the powerful film "Monster" with Charlize Theron (who, by the way, did an EXCELLENT job in that film. After you see this, you'll agree she totally nailed the part of the real Aileen we see here).
From the opening lines, we realize that the director Nick Broomfield is biased in favour of Aileen, so if that's hard for you to swallow you might want to skip this documentary. But whether or not you think Aileen deserved to be executed, this is a great doc because it asks questions that we all should consider about the legal system, society's callousness and ultimately the death penalty.
From the Rolling Stones song: "I shouted out, who killed the Kennedys? When after all, It was you and me."
Similarly, this film asks the question, who killed the 7 victims? The answer, Nick Bloomfield implies, is "you and me" (human society). There is no Devil, and Aileen Wurnos isn't some supernatural spawn of Satan. She was a mentally damaged person who slipped through the cracks of society and in turn destroyed a lot of lives. Society, or rather the justice system, labeled her an abomination and exacted its revenge, washed its hands of her, and all the while made a pretty profit.
What's masterful about this documentary is, even though it is very sympathetic toward Aileen in her plight, it never attempts to excuse her for her crimes. In fact it shows some very chilling outbursts of hers where we realize exactly how explosive & mentally damaged she was. This is truly a documentary for people who can process the truth in conflicting packets, not for people who see things as black & white.
Other great films/documentaries that tackle controversial topics and force us to see the complexities beneath them include: "You Don't Know Jack" (2010) about Dr. Jack Kevorkian's suicide machine, "A Short Film About Killing" (1988) which is part of Kieslowsky's powerful "Decalogue" series, and an excellent doc called "The Bridge" (2006) that shows real footage of several troubled souls leaping to their deaths off the Golden Gate Bridge and analyzes what made them do it.