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Landscape Suicide

Director:  James Benning
Year Released:  1987
Rating:  3.0

Intriguing Benning feature that pairs his interest in "America" and land formations with two interviews with murderers: Bernadette Protti (played by Rhonda Bell) from California (who stabbed a classmate) and Ed Gein (Elion Sucher) from Wisconsin (a murderer and grave robber). The way in which the actors (who are excellent) describe their crimes with detachment mirrors Benning's distant filmmaking approach, and the underlying impression is that behind the seemingly calm exteriors lies horror and dread - more than once I was reminded of Michael Lesy's non-fiction book Wisconsin Death Trip (coincidentally, Benning's home state), which is about suffering and (mental) disease in the latter part of the 19th century. It concludes, fittingly, with a deer being gutted in the snowy woods.

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