Lake of Fire (review)

Get new reviews in your email in-box or in an app by becoming a paid Substack subscriber or Patreon patron.

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.

share and enjoy
If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
If you haven’t commented here before, your first comment will be held for MaryAnn’s approval. This is an anti-spam, anti-troll measure. If you’re not a spammer or a troll, your comment will be approved, and all your future comments will post immediately.
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Mon, Nov 05, 2007 1:55am

Well, have fun with the discussion here. I’ll be over in the fallout shelter.

Wed, Nov 07, 2007 2:10am

Kneejerk religiosity is an apt term to describe the current American attitude – at least that is what it seems like to me, a European citizen. The dear old US of A needs to start *thinking* again.

Tonio Kruger
Thu, Nov 08, 2007 4:10pm

Well, much of our “kneejerk” religiosity was inherited from our European ancestors so…

Sat, Nov 10, 2007 3:21am

Perhaps, but our European cousins have been able to move on, while we’re still living in the 17th century.

Sat, Nov 10, 2007 7:50am


You know, we’re also different from our European cousins in that we have no official state religion. You should count your blessings, Maryann, that you’re not required to pay taxes to the Church of the U.S.A. Granted, a lot of people want to tear down that wall of separation, but it is there.