Dir: Tony Kaye. US. 2006. 152mins
The Book of Revelations talks of a lake "which burnswith fire and brimstone" and this state of eternal doom proves an apt metaphorfor the subject of abortion. While there are hints on which side film-makerTony Kaye stands, his film will not be embraced by either pro-lifers or thosethat favour a woman's right to chose. It is a complex, nuanced, penetratingstudy that compliments familiar voices with idiosyncratic thinkers in aremarkably fluid fashion that is never less than compelling.

Originallyspurred by the 20th anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court Roevs Wade decision in 1993, the production odyssey in no way interferes with thefinished film. It has strong theatrical prospects in niche exploitation and itsextended version is certain to generate potent television interest and brisksales on DVD.

Focusingspecifically on the situation in the US, one commentator observes that theissue is a perennial for conservative politicians just as the minimum wage is astaple for liberals. And it's an excellent point of demarcation. There is adecided smoke screen of politics and religion that clouds abortion and allowsboth sides not to deal with it in a straightforward fashion.

That perspectivemanifests itself via a number of zealots and two cases in which doctors workingin abortion clinics were murdered in Florida. An observer notes that logicallyspeaking those advocating the primacy of life by extension should be supportersof universal health care and equal opportunity education. That isn't the caseand by the same token there are anomalies among those advocating "choice".

Lawyer andprofessor Alan Dershowitz speaks eloquently about his career advocacy for awomen's control of her body. However, when he segues into his personal life,the cracks of reason reveal a discomfit about when life begins. An anecdoteunderlines the dilemma of pushing forward when by definition or conviction allfactions are "right" in their opinion and belief.

If Dershowitz isthe epitome of the conflicted soul, others such as linguist Noam Chomsky ariseas dispassionate observers. He clinically breaks down the oratory surroundingabortion and dissects the inconsistencies in the rhetoric. Without stating itin a direct or obvious fashion, the emotional component surrounding abortionrights overwhelms reason, science and sometime compassion.

One of the mostunsettling sections centers on Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of the landmarkcase that established a woman's right to choose. In the decades since the trialshe confronted a crisis of conscience and became an evangelic. Despite herbrave face, one senses that having been the poster child for both extremes herexposure to manipulation was intense and disorienting.

In the finalportion of the film, Kaye follows Stacy, a woman who has decided to abort. Sheis Lake Of Fire's human face and theconduit for the film's most disquieting images.

Her resolvenonetheless belies an unsteadiness that has genuine poignancy. The audiencesees far more of the procedure and its aftermath than Stacy. The removal of thefoetus concludes with portions of limbs and skull set out in a laboratory tray.

Kaye selected tofilm in black and white and it simultaneously lends the picture authenticityand distance. The majority of the footage was shot between 1993 and 1998 andaside from a modest amount of subsequent shooting he has struggled to find aform that was balanced and comprehensive. An earlier cut ran six hours anddealt with the subject on a global basis.

Despite thevintage of what's on screen, there's no sense of a time capsule beingunearthed. Obviously considerable effort has been extended to create somethingthat feels organic and universal. It is a singular achievement that cannot helpbut leave the viewer shaken regardless of his bias, extreme or impartial.

Tony Kaye Productions

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Executive producers
Yan Lin Kaye
Steve Golin
David Kanter

Tony Kaye

Peter Goddard

Anne Dudley