Alleluia

Not available for screening anymore

Alleluia

Directed by Fabrice du Welz

  • Belgium, France 2014; 95 min
  • Original version: French
  • Genre: Thriller, Drama
    • Magritte Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound and Best Production Design

Synopsis

Michel is an inveterate womanizer and professional hustler. When he meets Gloria, she falls in love with him like the others. But more excessively. Gloria finds her reason to live in Michel. Their relation is passionate, limitless. When Gloria discovers Michel’s hustling she becomes his accomplice rather than risk losing him. Together they embark on a wild and deadly odyssey. Their unfettered passions will drive them to the brink of insanity…

Director's Statement

The inspiration for ALLELUIA was a sordid news item which made the headlines in the United States in 1949. Return to the story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, "The Lonely Hearts Killers".

On 4 January 1949, a strange trio settled down on Long Island, in a flat rented on Adeline Street. Raymond Fernandez, 34 years old, had just asked in marriage one of the two women accompanying him, Janet Fay, age 66. His other companion, Martha Beck, 28 years old, a former nurse whom Fernandez presented as his sister-in-law, was in reality his mistress. During the night, following an argument, Martha smashed Janet Fay's skull in with a hammer. Raymond finished off his "fiancée" by choking her. This atrocious murder marked the start of the long escape-on-the-run the stars of which the American press would baptise the "Lonely Hearts Killers".

Fernandez had long practice as a gigolo and swindler. He robbed lonely women of their savings whom he met by answering classified ads. It is in this way that he meets Martha Beck in 1947. Martha is a corpulent if not altogether obese woman, following a glandular malformation. After completing nursing school, she has difficulty in finding stable jobs. She has a first child, a girl, of an unknown father. Then a boy with a certain Beck, who marries Martha before quickly divorcing her.

Fernandez lives briefly with her. Everywhere they go, Martha declares that they're going to get married. But her lover returns to New York. The young woman joins him there by surprise. Martha, giving in to his quirks, Fernandez tolerates her. Head over heels in love, Martha places her children with the Salvation Army. Raymond then informs her about his swindles. So she decides to team up with him. In August 1948, Fernandez weds Myrtle Young in Arkansas. Martha strives to prevent their union from being consumed. When the new Mrs Fernandez ends up by rebelling, Raymond gives her a good dose of horse sedatives and abandons her on a bus on its way to Little Rock. Myrtle will die the very next day in a hospital… As of then, there won't be any way back for Martha and Raymond, henceforth criminal lovers.

But the worst arises with Fernandez's ultimate conquest, Delphine Downing, a young widow and mother of a two-year-old girl, Rainelle. Playing their usual brother-sister duo, Martha and Raymond settle down in Downing's home. When the widow begins to show signs of doubt, Fernandez gives her sleeping drugs. The little girl calls out for her mother and cries. In a towering rage, Martha sexually assaults her. Fearing Delphine's reaction when she wakes up, Fernandez kills her in her sleep. He buries the body in the cellar. The couple remains for several days in the house while little Rainelle keeps calling out for her mother. Martha finally drowns her in the sink…

On 28 February 1949, alerted by suspicious neighbours, the police show up just as the two lovers are coming back from the movie theatre. The two freshly dug graves in the cellar are discovered. Arrested, Raymond and Martha confess to everything, with all the sordid details. Their confession is no less than 76 pages long. The very next day, the story makes the headlines. The newspapers baptise Fernandez and Beck "The Lonely Hearts Killers". Martha appears as the scapegoat. Her weight and barely advantageous appearance are highlighted. Given the mediatisation of the case, the Governor of the State of New York convinces the State of Michigan to extradite the criminal lovers. The consequence is simple: Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck face the death penalty.

The trial makes a whirlwind in the press during the entire next summer. On 22 August 1949, at the conclusion of several widely mediatised weeks of trial, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck are finally sentenced to the electric chair. Martha, executed after her lover, faces her fate with self-assurance, defying one last time social standards by claiming that nobody can understand what unites her to Raymond. Given her extreme corpulence, her agony lasts several long minutes. Ending a deadly passion which, widely surpassing any work of fiction, continues to inspire novelists and filmmakers alike.

Production

  • RADAR FILMS

    Clément Miserez 

  • PANIQUE

     

International Sales

  • SND FILMS

    Tristan Martin 

Festival Bookings

  • THE FESTIVAL AGENCY