AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER: DVD
Ten years after his original documentary on famed American serial killer Aileen Wuornos (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer), British filmmaker Nick Broomfield returns to the subject, this time detailing Wuornos's final hearings before her sentence of death is carried out. Containing interviews with family and one-time friends, and featuring her last ever interview just hours before her death, Broomfield continually searches for the truth about Aileen's mental state and who she was as a person at the time when she killed seven men.
Review by Craig Miller
Talented filmmaker Nick Broomfield has created some pretty interesting work over the course of his career, with a great ability to uncover impossible, unlikely and thought-provoking information on the lives of the subjects he chooses to research.
His documentary on 1990s rock icon Kurt Cobain and the idea that his rocker wife Courtney Love had had something to do with his death, and his original documentary on Aileen Wuornos and how those closest to her tried to profit from her life, are great examples of how Broomfield operates and how he presents his work- low budget and tabloid-ish, yet intriguing and confronting.
Broomfield is masterful at developing material into shocking situations, and knowing exactly how to let his documentaries evolve. What makes this British filmmaker's compelling documentary worthy of some pretty serious attention is the footage of Aileen Wuornos as she prepares for her death sentence to be carried out.
The film starts out with Broomfield summoned to appear at Aileen Wuornos's final appeal to give evidence against her previous lawyer and his drug use, but soon it transforms into a look into the mind of one of the world's most notorious female serial killers and what the effects and strain of knowing you are going to die have on a fragile human mind.
Wuornos is shown deliberately sabotaging her own appeal and ends up forgoing all other appeal avenues and volunteering to die, which sparks Broomfield's and the law's interest in her mental state.
Broomfield returns to the small town of Troy, Michigan, where Wournos grew up, detailing unsettling evidence of physical, sexual and mental abuse at the hands of family members and neighbourhood residents. She even gave up a child for adoption at the age of thirteen and was kicked out of home and forced to live in the woods at the end of her semi-rural street for more than two years.
But the most frightening footage is that of Wuornos's final interview with Broomfield just hours before her execution, showing just how crazy a death row inmate can get. She talks of poisoning, how the police let her develop into a serial killer and how the prison system uses "sonic pressure" to control her. Its disturbing stuff and you can't help but think that here is a woman who, yes, has done wrong, but has been let down terribly by the "system".
Also disturbing is, the day before this when Wuornos passes a state sanctioned psychiatric evaluation that deems her mentally fit to die (an oxymoron if ever there was one). I don't know who was crazier, Wuornos, or the committee of three psychiatrists that saw fit to sign off on her mental health.
Take, for example, statements she alluded to in her last minute before she was executed: That she would be sailing away with the rock, she'll be back with Jesus Christ like on Independence Day on June 6, just like the movie, on the big ship, I'll be back, I'll be back.
Yep, sound as a pound!
As a documentary Aileen: The life and death of a serial killer, raises a lot more questions than it answers, but Broomfield never intends to give you answers, he just finds the information. What you do with it, or how you see it, is directly up to you.
Published May 27, 2004
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AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER (M)
CAST: Nick Broomfield & Aileen Wuornos as themselves.
DIRECTOR: Nick Broomfield & Joan Churchill
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
PRESENTATION: Full Frame, Dolby Digital stereo
SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailers only
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Imagine
DVD RELEASE: May 5, 2004