Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Aileen Wuornos: Selling of a Serial Killer/Life and Death of a Serial Killer - DVD - 20/1/10

Aileen Wuornos killed seven men in the space of twelve months.

That is the closest thing to an absolute truth or fact that one can extract from these two films about one of the most controversial figures in recent American criminal history.

Wuornos had a troubled life; a mother who left the home when she was six months old, a father who was convicted of sodomising a young boy and who then took his own life, a physically abusive grandfather, a pregnancy at 13, bullied, homeless, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues and prostitution all played a prominent role the development of the woman who committed the crimes for which she was eventually executed.

Director Nick Broomfield made the first of these films in 1992 and examined the motives of those who were involved with Wuornos at that point. Those people included a pot smoking lawyer calling himself "Dr Legal" and a born-again Christian woman who adopted the adult Wuornos and encouraged her to plead guilty in order to find absolution from her sins. With friends like those...

Wuornos did plead guilty despite her earlier claims that she had acted in self defence. In the case of her first "victim" she described, at her initial trial, a period of sustained and horrific physical and sexual abuse at his hands before she shot him.

There were also allegations that several of the police officers in the original investigation, along with Wuornos' lesbian partner, were in negotiations to sell their stories to film companies. Eventually several of those accused resigned or were re-assigned to different sections lending some credence to her claims.

In the second film Broomfield arrives back in the States to film the last days of Wuornos who has now, ten years later, decided to confess that all the killings were in cold blood and not self defence. However, in an unguarded moment, she confesses to Broomfield that the killings were self defence but that she cannot face a life sentence and would rather die so will not fight her execution.

Throughout the second film it becomes increasingly clear that Wuornos has become increasingly detached from reality and is paranoid. She believes her cell has been bugged, she makes claims of torture and conspiracy and is also sure that upon her death she will be taken aboard a spacecraft to be with Jesus.

A moving and thought provoking look at the tragic life of a woman who committed some awful crimes and a powerful look at the real implications of the death sentence. Is there any moral or legal case for executing a woman who was, for much of her life, the victim of terrible abuse and who is also, clearly, mentally disturbed? The Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, thought so and that was in no way connected to his re-election campaign.

Questions, questions, questions and, as with all good documentary film making, few answers. Instead you are forced to come to your own conclusions and then to question how you have arrived at them.

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