Gloria (Lola Dueñas) is a single mother who, with a friend’s encouragement, signs up to a dating website, through which she meets Michel (Laurent Lucas). Their romance intensifies quickly and, completely captivated by him, Gloria is soon lending Michel money to keep his business afloat. When she doesn’t hear from him she tracks him down to a nightclub where she sees him seducing other women. Michel, it turns out, is a hustler who cons women like Gloria out of their money but, rather than putting her off this only adds to her determination to have him for her own. Gloria’s passion for Michel leads her to violence against the other women he is intimate with until their crimes begin to spiral out of control.
Country: Belgium, France
Language: French, Spanish
Director: Fabrice Du Welz
Writers: Fabrice Du Welz, Romain Protat, Vincent Tavier
Cinematographer: Manuel Dacosse
Starring: Lola Dueñas, Laurent Lucas
Runtime: 93 minutes
In the late 1940s Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck were arrested on the suspicion of murdering up to twenty women in a case that has caught the imagination of writers and film-makers ever since. Although the couple were only ever tried for one of the murders they were suspected of committing they were sentenced to death and during the course of their trial became known as the Lonely Hearts Killers, after the lonely hearts ads they used to meet their victims. It is a story that has already been adapted for film numerous times, most recently in Todd Robinson’s Lonely Hearts (2006), in which Salma Hayek and Jared Leto are horribly miscast as the murderous couple. It is not surprising that the case has been so frequently adapted; beneath its gruesome true-life crime story there is also some sort of twisted, macabre romance.
As the film is merely ‘inspired’ by the killers, rather than being directly based on the accounts of their crimes, Fabrice Du Welz and his co-writers are given some room to change certain details. The instigator of the majority of the crimes seems to be Gloria, for instance, and Michel only contributes directly to the violence late in the film. Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck shared responsibility a little more evenly. Some of the more distressing crimes that they committed are left out of the film entirely, which is no bad thing. It’s easy to overlook these changes as once the film settles into its gruesome mode it’s their means that draw the most attention rather than the ends they aspire to. To be honest, it’s never really clear what their ultimate aim is, or even if they know themselves what it is. There is no attempt to explain Gloria’s descent into madness and murder. It’s as if a mental valve is opened when she meets Michel and all of her neurotic aggression is allowed to spew forth unimpeded. It is hard pill to swallow, to see this apparently well-adjusted, introverted single mother abandon her child and mutate so suddenly into a full-blooded maniac.
Alléluia is a masochistic exercise in psycho cinema. There is no fun to be had watching it, it’s certainly not entertaining seeing Michel and Gloria satisfy their carnal appetites and there is no significant insight into their mania. There are some brilliant touches, such as Gloria’s poetic, plaintive musical interlude just before she goes at a corpse’s shin with a hacksaw, and Fabrice Du Welz’s lurid colour schemes force us further into the depths of Gloria’s red hell. Yet the unrelenting grimness soon becomes unpalatable, making the last third of the film little more than a test of endurance. Even disregarding the numerous other adaptations of the Lonely Hearts Killers story there are better films out there that deal in love and psychosis in a similar way, none better than Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers. Alléluia eagerly invites us to witness the depravity of its villains but doesn’t give us any compelling reason to stick around.