Passion inspires. It can drive the creation of beauty but can also cause profound pain. Crimes of passion are especially heartbreaking because intense passion make lovers blind to the outcome of their actions. Their love and lust can spin them into a state where reason and logic are no longer in charge. Revenge, reaction, and punishment are the only things that matter to someone blinded by their passion. Blinded by lust, consequences of actions, long or short term, are not anywhere on the mind of someone in the throes of rage. Where sex meets drama and horror, these crimes of passion make for engaging cinema.
ALLÉLUIA is a Belgian film very loosely based on a pair of American serial killers. Known as the Lonely Hearts Killers, a pair of lovers went on a murderous spree in the late 1940s, preying on lonely women who were just trying to find their soulmate. The real life murderers, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, were ultimately executed for killing nearly twenty women. In the film, the time and location of the crimes changes but their love story and descent into killers remains the same. Michel (Laurent Lucas) and Gloria (Lola Dueñas) meet online and date briefly. When their relationship ends abruptly, it is clear that Michel is a con artist, and he has successfully duped Gloria. Her obsession and willingness to completely abandon her life is no match for his interest in moving on to the next mark. When he realizes her tenacity and devotion he knows that he cannot live without her either. Their passion for one another is reflected in Michel’s appetite for money and power and Gloria’s unwavering adoration of Michel, at any cost. The film is violent and brutal, but always remains lightly sympathetic to the lovers. As their crime spree widens we see how volatile love can make someone.
ALLÉLUIA carves its own space within the strong film tradition of jilted lovers seeking revenge. What makes it unique—aside from elevating the material to art house status—is Michel and Gloria’s intentional betrayals.
To highlight this plot recurrence, let’s quickly look at any number of jilted lover films. From Fatal Attraction, to Fear, and Swimfan it is no stretch to find a horror film which has the horror of the film emanate from one character’s passion. The typical plot involves two lovers coming together, often for a single night, only to have one character break off the relationship. The jilted lover becomes obsessed, feels entitled to their previous partner, and wages war on their ex and everything their ex loves. It is the passion and obsession that make these films accessible and often repeated. Anyone in the audience who has felt a twinge of jealousy, or has rejected someone’s advances only to see the heartbreak they have caused can see the emotional kindling here. It is scary to relate to either character, but that fear makes the horror real.
ALLÉLUIA is based on this same pattern of love and vengeance, but it is intentional and habitual. Michel knows that Gloria is not stable and will stop at nothing to come between him and other women, yet he repeatedly engages with other women in front of Gloria. Even more sadistic is that she follows him anywhere, knowing that he will be moving to a new town with the explicit purpose of seducing a new woman. Knowing that each new woman Michel touches will ignite the vengeful fire within Gloria, they continue on their bloody tour throughout the country.
Perhaps the worst part of their endeavor is that this brutal love and death cycle is not only the basis of Michel and Gloria’s relationship, it is their foreplay. Both of them, on some level, get off on continuing their cycle at any cost. In none of the aforementioned jilted lover horror films do all of the involved people enjoy the events. It is terrifying for the victim, but also horrible for the villains too. The “bad guys” in these films are heart broken and hurting, they just have a funny way of showing it. Gloria and Michel seem to enjoy their sexually fueled violence, though it has the unfortunate necessity of involving an unknowing victim.
Crimes of passion are nothing new to film. ALLÉLUIA takes a look at the unique horror of passionate murder not being the end of the story. It does so with beauty, heart-wrenching performances, and a keen eye on the emotional roots of the passion.