Opening 23 Jan 2014
“A Look into the Abyss” could be the literal translation of this film by Austrian Barbara Eder. It’s much more than just a “look.” We meet six men and women from Germany, Finland, the U.S., and South Africa. Their job is to study unsolved cases of murder or rape (or both or worse) with an eye practiced to recognize a pattern of traits which could lead to the perpetrator. As the press information rightly says, they “put together bloody puzzles to form a personality profile.” They differ in ages from 42 to 75, have the corresponding years of experience and never give up; an unsolved case is their worst nightmare. Director Eder thought it important to stress that serial killing is universal and therefore chose profilers from different countries. The killers look like perfectly normal citizens. In one scene where profiler and offender are facing each other across a table, I could not differentiate between the two.
These six people discuss genes versus environment, brain-treatment with electrodes, the killing of strangers versus loved ones, etc. Robert R. Hazelwood and Roger L. Depue had even been interviewed by Scott Glenn, the author of the book Silence of the Lambs, which became a film and is now part of the inspiration for this film. Naturally, the job affects their nerves, so that they sometimes feel the urge to give up. Why would anyone choose such a profession? Helina Häkkänen-Nyhom says, “We rarely experience joy or happiness in this job.” They are especially wary of security measures and recommend the following: Lock your windows and doors, never park next to a mini-van in a shopping center parking lot, get a tape of a dog barking, and have a male friend recite your telephone message.
This documentary is interesting simply because of its unusual topic. It’s down to earth, far from any television murder mystery where the bad guy loses. This film opens doors into a world which most of us will never enter, which makes it worthwhile – a way to widen your horizon without putting yourself in danger. (Becky Tan)