Lake of Fire (review)
British filmmaker Tony Kaye, who made the jolting racism drama American History X, once against turns an outsider’s eye on a peculiarly American neurosis: the controversy over abortion. I groaned when I learned this documentary, 15 years in the making, was two and a half hours long, even if it was about a topic that I, as a feminist and, you know, a woman, cannot help but be passionate about. But I’m glad to be able to report that those 152 minutes fly by as Kaye highlights the fascinating and frustrating duality that characterizes the topic: on the one side we have the acceptance of the sometimes hard realities of women’s lives, and on the other we have the blinding power of ignorance and demagoguery. Kaye shoots in black and white, a stark reminder of how there is no middle ground when it comes to abortion in America… and also, perhaps, a bit of a cushion against the authenticity of Kaye’s harsh vision. He does not sugarcoat the fact of abortion; he gives us, plain and unignorable and in your face, an actual abortion procedure, but he doesn’t forget, either, the woman for whom it is both a relief and a tragedy, something both welcome and difficult. Crisscrossing America, Kaye strips the facade of righteousness from Bible thumpers ignorant about the history of their own holy book and the tediousness of right-wingers who can’t accept feminism as anything other than the rabid rantings of lesbians, and contrasts it with the thoughfulness of folks like Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky, who acknowledge the complexity of the issue but are mostly prochoice. I wish Kaye had focused more on the undeniable facts that women — and children! — are healthier and better off when abortion is safe and legal, whatever those who call themselves “prolife” would like to believe, but still, this is a balanced look at both sides of the abortion debate in America that, in the end, shows that knee-jerk religiosity cannot win in the face of compassion and reason.