‘They were not born evil’: inside a troubling film on why people kill

Posted by on November 17, 2020 11:38 am
Categories: Global Stories

In Alex Gibney’s documentary Crazy, Not Insane, the career of clinical psychiatrist Dr Dorothy Otnow Lewis is explored, from her work with Ted Bundy to Arthur Shawcross

Dr Dorothy Otnow Lewis knows her way around a dicey interview. Lewis, a clinical psychiatrist, has interviewed, by her count, over a hundred murderers, death row inmates and some of America’s most notorious serial killers, including Arthur Shawcross and Ted Bundy. She has testified at numerous death sentence hearings for inveterate, indisputable killers – almost always on behalf of the defense’s plea of insanity, leading to New Yorker profiles and at times derision.

As outlined in Crazy, Not Insane, an HBO documentary from the impossibly busy Alex Gibney (Totally Under Control, Agents of Chaos, both from earlier this year) Lewis has plumbed an abyss few would dare or consider to approach. She seeks neither condemnation nor vengeance, but information: an empirical sketch of the darkest capacities of the human psyche, the bounds of empathy for the sickest minds.

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