After serving ten years in director's jail for declaring war on New Line Cinema over final cut of his debut film, American History X, Tony Kaye has been released for good behavior and gone back to his favorite subject: American extremism. His new documentary, Lake of Fire, is ostensibly a balanced look at the abortion debate in America, and two sides are certainly represented, but when you have Noam Chomsky in one corner and a snake-handling, chromosome-missing, relative-of-Leatherface type in the other corner, is that really a fair framing of the debate? Perhaps you think so, but either way, Kaye's film places such an overwhelming emphasis on abortion-clinic shooters, beady-eyed Biblical literalists and other non-negotiable types that his film ultimately comes across as pro-choice even if it's not intended to. In a film that lasts 150 minutes, there are perhaps five minutes devoted to exploring the position of, say, pro-life liberal Nat Hentoff, who lays out what I would consider a perfectly defensible argument for his beliefs. Couldn't we have had more of that?
Even though the film doesn't present the best possible argument for both sides in the debate, it also can't be denied that Kaye's natural strengths as a filmmaker -- his uncompromising eye and willingness to shock the audience -- are at full-tilt in this film. Specifically, he doesn't shy away even one iota from showing us exactly what an abortion is, what it costs everyone involved, and what is left behind after it's over. In what may be some of the most gruesome footage ever contained in a theatrically-released film, and boy am I not kidding, Kaye takes his small crew inside of abortion clinics and then points his camera (and our faces) directly into the medical waste that remains when an abortion is completed: fully-formed and dismembered hands, feet, heads, torsos, eyeballs, and all the rest of it. If you go in to see this film, know in advance that you'll have to see something that, whatever you choose to call it, is indistinguishable from a small baby cut up into pieces and floating in a pan of liquid gore.