MOVIE REVIEW: ALLELUIA / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: FABRICE DU WELZ / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: STEPHANE BISSOT, LOLA DUENAS, EDITH LE MERDY / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Love can do funny things to people. It’s life-affirming and joyous, but what happens when two lost souls meet and proceed to murder folk for profit? Loosely inspired by the real-life case of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, director Fabrice Du Welz’s latest picture is a study of burning desire and passion that, while more than a few sandwiches short of a picnic, demonstrates how consuming and volatile love, as an emotional force, can be when it turns obsessive and needy.
Gloria (a sensational performance by Lola Dueñas) is a Spanish national living in Belgium with her young daughter. Du Welz doesn’t exactly spell it out to the viewer, but it’s implied that her ex-husband was a bit of a bastard and they’ve been forced to relocate. Gloria works as a mortician at a local hospital and is looking for love online. Although initially nervous about meeting Michel (Laurent Lucas), something magical occurs on their first date.
Everything about Gloria and Michel is the perverse flipside of connection and happiness. Love at first sight, after all, is celebrated in everything from Dante Alighieri’s poems to the heavenly Beatrice Portinari to James Joyce’s Ulysses and countless pop songs. Initially, it seems that Michel is the dangerous one. His little-boy-lost routine is entirely selfish and self-serving. In fact, Gloria is far more deadly than her beau as she is willing to kill without a second thought. It springs from her inability to accept that her man must bed other ladies as part of their scheming. A blowjob scene, using discomforting sound design as an expressionistic device, to portray Gloria’s frayed nerves and horror, is an extraordinary creative flourish. Later, just as she’s about to carve up a dead body, the disassociation from reality is highlighted by having Gloria literally sing about the world being a dangerous place.
Beautifully and moodily shot by Manuel Ducosse, the intimate handheld camera work is contrasted with unexpected bursts of colour that edge it close, on occasion, to golden age Italian horror. The elliptical structure of the narrative, too, ensures that motives and reasoning are largely jettisoned in favour of audience participation and guess work. Du Welz, it seems, wants us to experience the madness of the relationship unburdened by routine armchair Freudian probing.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10