Fabrice Du Welz is a filmmaker that I keep tabs on because his film, Calvaire (aka: The Ordeal) made such an indelible impression on me. It wasn’t that the Belgian film was perfect, or particularly groundbreaking,. It was the raw grit and creativity that saturated the film. From the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (sic, because it’s the original) -esque tone and backcountry depravity, to the strangely beautiful and poetically tragic ending. So, I watched his follow-up feature, Vinyan, which was beautiful and tragic and violent and featured great performances from Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell as parents desperate to find their lost son. (the reptilian Sewell is always a welcome addition to a film!) And then I waited. And waited. It was 6 years until Du Welz made another film – Alleluia – based on the true story of a killer couple and starring Calvaire’s Laurent Lucas. Nice! Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out!
Gloria is a lonely, middle-aged woman. Her friend pushes her to try online dating and she ends up with Michel, a slightly awkward but likable guy. His low-level quirkiness charms Gloria, and she ends up bringing him back home. Everything is coming up roses for her! He’s even cool with her having a daughter (a fact that might scare some men away). When she overhears him talking on the phone to a creditor, she gives him a large sum of money despite only knowing him for a couple of days. When he doesn’t come back, or answer his phone, she goes looking for him. And she finds him picking up another woman. Gloria learns that Michel is good at one thing – pleasing women. He can charm them and scam money from them easily, so that is what he does. Gloria is so head-over-heels for Michel that she talks him into keeping her around while he continues to scam woman. Soon, she abandons her kid, and the two lovers up the stakes and add marriage to the scam. But Gloria may not be as cool with Michel’s new wife / wives as she says she is. And Michel is just sadistic / crazy enough to delight in Gloria’s jealous bloodlust.
Alleluia is essentially about psychologically damaged people inflicting psychological and physical damage on other people. (that pretty much sums horror up i guess) Michel sinks to unfathomable depths to betray and defraud woman and shows a complete lack of empathy when those women end up the targets of Gloria’s jealous rages. His personal history is a shocking tale of psychological and physical abuse – told with an impersonal lack of awareness – that is a source-point for his current state and actions. Gloria is pushed over the edge by jealousy but the intensity of her possessiveness (or desire to be possessed) belies a mind teetering on the brink of madness already. It is implied that her past relationships have only stoked that underlying pathology. This is a character study through-and-through. It is methodical, deliberate, and wholly focused on these two characters and their insanity. It is rooted in reality with its earth tone palette and crisp cinematography, but it features a couple of surreal sequences that artfully reflect Gloria’s troubled psyche. It’s fascinating, but somehow manages to be a bit tedious at the same time. We know from early in act two how the rest of the film will go. So, the rest is just a case study (with the welcome addition of the surreal moments that are all-too-infrequent). Case studies are not bad in-and-of themselves. It’s just that this one is a bit repetitive. It’s still worth a watch for the outstanding performances by the leads and the inherently interesting story. Just prepare yourself mentally beforehand. (like you would for a marathon… i assume)
The Final Cut: Alleluia is an intense, violent character study featuring outstanding performances from the lead actors. It’s worth a watch for genre fans despite its repetitiveness and tendency to drag a bit.