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Sept. 8-17, 2005
Toronto Internation Film Festival
A division of the Toronto International Film Festival Group




Film Description

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Film Title:
The Last Hangman

Programme: CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA
Director: Adrian Shergold
Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2005
Language: English
Time: 90 minutes
Film Types: Colour/HDCAM
Rating: 18A
The Last Hangman

SCREENING TIMES: 
Monday, September 12    9:15 PM    CUMBERLAND 3 Buy tickets now
Wednesday, September 14    11:30 AM    VARSITY 8 Buy tickets now
Saturday, September 17    6:00 PM    VARSITY 8 Buy tickets now
Production Company: Granada
Executive Producer: Andy Harries, Jeff Pope
Producer: Christine Langan
Screenplay: Jeff Pope
Cinematography: Danny Cohen
Editor: Tania Reddin
Production Designer: Candida Otton
Sound: Reginald Mills
Music: Martin Phipps
Principal Cast: Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Eddie Marsan

A large, somewhat awkward man of simple manners, Albert Pierrepoint (Timothy Spall) is like just any other decent, working-class fellow when we first encounter him. Then he goes for an interview at the local prison to become a hangman. According to Pierrepoint’s mother, the same job had turned his father into an alcoholic and hustled him into an early grave, yet Pierrepoint feels he has the unique skills to succeed.

The job requires strong statistical abilities in order to judge the drop required to snap a prisoner’s neck without ripping off his head. Larger inmates sometimes require a different rope density; certain personalities demand more finesse in leading them from their cell to the execution room. Pierrepoint is concerned not with the morality of execution, but with ensuring a quick and humane death. If the state has determined that a given criminal should be hanged, it is not his place to judge.

He rises quickly through the ranks of executioners and becomes famous for the speed of his work. His career reaches a pinnacle when he is personally called over by General Montgomery to execute the Nuremberg criminals after World War II. His extraordinary work in dispatching hundreds of prisoners of war makes him a media star in Britain. But his experiences in Germany change Pierrepoint. He becomes increasingly unsure of his moral imperatives at the same time that abolitionists begin a fierce campaign to end hanging.

One of Britain’s most impressive actors, Spall gives a breathtaking performance as Pierrepoint, Great Britain’s best-known public executioner and last official Chief Hangman. He captures the man’s gradual change from confident and capable to wiser and conflicted with extraordinary subtlety. Juliet Stevenson is a lovely counterpoint as his wife; her tough response to Pierrepoint’s later dilemma delivers a chilling reminder that human life consists of considerably more than statistics.

At a time when frontier justice seems to be making a comeback, this gentle reminder of the burden of conscience that the death penalty places on society is most welcome indeed.

- Noah Cowan

Adrian Shergold has directed extensively for British theatre and for many television series, documentaries and television movies. Some of his credits include Last Christmas (99), Buried Treasure (00), The Second Coming (02), Danielle Cable (03), She’s Gone (04), the award-winning Dirty Filthy Love (04), Ahead of the Class (04) and The Last Hangman (05).

Associated with European Film Promotion,
an initiative supported by the
European Union’s MEDIA Programme.