Sunday, January 06, 2008


0807 Pierrepoint film
Originally uploaded by rooruu.

Albert Pierrepoint was one of Britain's hangmen in the twentieth century - his work involved between 400 and 600 executions. This dramatised documentary featuring a very fine performance by Timothy Spall was compelling, although not always easy to watch.

(Sideline note: the film makes the point that Pierrepoint dealt with the criminals' remains with respect and courtesy - but when he hanged very few women and almost entirely men, why is it a woman's body that we are shown in full as he bathes it after the hanging? Is it that it's 'easier' somehow to show a naked woman than a naked man?).

Like Vera Drake, it's a film set in a thirties/forties English domestic world, poorly lit, cramped, drably coloured, a claustrophobic environment in which the characters do their best to live respectable lives.

You wonder what it did to a man's mind, even one as phlegmatic, workmanlike and professional about his work, when after the WW2 Nazi trials, he was chosen to go to Germany and found himself hanging 13 people a day for a week.

In his biography, Pierrepoint had this to say:

It did not deter them then and it had not deterred them when they committed what they were convicted for. All the men and women I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done I have not prevented a single murder. I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge.

Here's a page that shows the status of capital punishment in the world today - where it still exists, where it's been abolished.

No comments: