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Lake of Fire

1 rating: 4.0
A movie directed by Tony Kaye

   Director Tony Kaye (AMERICAN HISTORY X) helms this black-and-white documentary about one of the most controversial issues in America: abortion.

Director: Tony Kaye
Genre: Documentary
Release Date: October 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Lake of Fire

As balanced a look at abortion that I know of (very grusome though)

  • Jan 19, 2009
Pros: Balanced view, as much as possible, brilliant filmmaking style

Cons: The gross parts are truly stomach-turning.

The Bottom Line: This is a difficult documentary but the best I know of for the abortion debate.  Be warned that if you have a weak stomach, consider carefully.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Tony Kaye is the auteur for the extremely difficult hundred and fifty minute documentary Lake of Fire which is an aggressive look at abortion.  It is polemic, graphic, and literally gruesome.  It will be difficult not to weigh in a bit so I will warn that I am going to look into a word (our) and a phrase (lovingly breed intolerance).

First the film is in black and white which is emblematic of the argument that will follow.  Despite the fact that black and white films are really shades of gray, there is very little gray with regards to the views.  On the one side are groups like Operation Rescue (operated by Terry Randall) and on the other are disparate small groups or individuals explaining the pro-choice side.  When you are utterly convinced you are right it is easy to organize around one topic.  When you believe that a general liberty is now embedded in the law it is harder to get motivated so other than Planned Parenthood and the National Organization of Women (both of which are mentioned but not explored) there may be decently populated pro-choice groups, but they are certainly less organized if for no other reason than they don’t have an utterly unshakeable view.

Since the only references interviewees are given once even if they show a second time, it is difficult to know who is who, so forgive me for not naming names.

Lake of Fire, in a nutshell describes the debate from about the middle of the 1990’s up until roughly 2004 (the film was presented in 2006 but it ends with an abortion performed in 1996).  It tries to be as balanced as possible.  I was outraged by so much of it that the idea of keeping a running tally of time was thrown out as an exercise in self-masochism I was not willing to perform.  The pro-life/anti-abortion groups (and other than main line Catholics, I tend to think that most of the people in the movement are more accurately described as anti-abortion).  By this I mean that the people actively calling for the execution of doctors, who among other women’s health services, offer abortions.  The Catholic doctrine holds all human life sacrosanct, so murder wouldn’t be on that doctrine as being supported.  Except for one well researched individual, everyone on the anti-abortion side are the extremists.  Among these is Randall Terry who is the one who says on his radio show that “we lovingly breed intolerance.”  At least he is honest.

On the pro-choice side are a series of people, some radical, most not, who wrestle with the idea.  Since there is no answer on when life begins, it is difficult to say when a woman and a doctor become what the zealots call “baby-killers.”  This is a fact that the pro-choice wrestles with.  Their focus must be two-fold and it is not an easy razor to stand on.  Few if any people are for abortion specifically to kill the unborn.  Most (me included) weigh the rights of the women against an unknown.  Given this, it is difficult for me to say anything other than the fact that it is not my body.  That is a cold comfort argument but that is what Lake of Fire presents.  The pro-choice movement, such as it is, knows that it cannot win a rhetorical argument if the focus is on the abortion procedure alone.  So the balance in the lengthy documentary is between the zealous and the contemplative.

Were it just for this, I would recommend it in general to anyone on either side of the debate.  Instead I recommend it with some serious concerns.

The first is that it is gruesome at several points.  During the defense of the man who executed Dr. Gunn in Pensacola in the middle 1990’s the prosecution used a video tape called The Hard Truth.  This film purports to show body parts of aborted children.  The presentation is done in such a melodramatic fashion that it is hard to fathom.  Still, it might be somewhat true.  It is impossible to tell, but it is disgusting.  This is balanced by an event at the end where the procedure is shown from the doctor’s point of view and the menstrual material from a woman pregnant woman is poured into a sink and sifted a bit.  Again, this is stomach turning.

Before I close the review proper, I want to say that there are a couple of sociologists who try to offer a more balanced, neutral view.  But try is the operative word.  Like I said, one side is convinced, the other not so; therefore the focus of these professionals tends to examine the motivations behind the zealots and the groups to which they belong.

Oddly enough, it is brilliantly filmed.  The sharp focus and the very much “in your face” close ups explain even more of the metaphor Mr. Kaye seems to desire.

If you are interested in what appears to be mostly balanced information about this divisive topic, then give this a thought.  Keep in mind that there are more than just a couple of brutal and gruesome moments, so if you have a weak stomach, consider carefully.

Short explanation of “our” and “lovingly breed intolerance”

The one thing as a linguist that gets me is when the ownership of something that is specific to one person is called “our.”  The baby inside a woman is no more mine than it is any other person’s.  So the inflated number of “our children” murdered since the Roe decision in 1973 (currently given at 35 million which would mean that about 1 in three women get abortions each year) is possible but highly unlikely in my view.  However, once the baby is born, the child is no longer “ours.”  Nothing significant has changed once the baby is born with regards to the people screaming that “our” babies are being killed.  If they truly believed in “our” children then no child would go to bed hungry, all children would receive preventative medical care and other medical care when needed.  All children would be given the opportunity for any level of education they opt to have.  So “our” stops when the baby screams for the first time.

Lovingly breeding hate is something I just wanted to look at for a moment.  Certainly there are vehement people on the pro-choice side of the argument.  But a quick search of radio topics returned no channel or host whose sole purpose is to advocate the harassment of those who disagree with the pro-choice stance.  From a logical point of view, this snippet of honest hatred would seem to undo at least Randall Terry’s argument for life being sacred.  The problem is that, while it does, the only thing affected is logic.  The people who listen already believe what he says and the ones who don’t see him as a nut, so he is able to say pretty much anything he wants with no repercussion.

Finally, I’m exhausted by this argument.  I hope what I say next will be the last I say on this now tiresome topic—I doubt it is new but here it is anyway.  Men need to stay out of the argument entirely.  We have no idea what the woman goes through.  In the US once a woman is pregnant she becomes what I call a seed pod.  People freak out if they see a pregnant woman smoking (my mother smoked throughout her pregnancy and I’ve tested at an IQ above 160 for a long time and have zero respiratory problems) or if she is drinking even a glass of wine.  They are not allowed to take anything for a cold.  They cannot eat strawberries or peanuts because of the likelihood of passing a possibly fatal allergy to the child.  Her body is her own, but her choice to do any of these forbidden things must be done in private because, in a sense her body becomes society’s.  This is all the more reason for men to stay out of the argument.  So let the women decide for themselves what is best for them individually, collectively, and socially.  After all, if forced vasectomies became part of the law, men would go schizo, and that only stops men from fertilizing a woman, it does nothing to force him to carry a child to term.  


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