Review: ‘Killing for Love’ Revisits a Virginia Murder Case


Jens Soering, in “Killing for Love,” a documentary from Karin Steinberger and Marcus Vetter. Mr. Soering was convicted, with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, in the 1985 deaths of Ms. Haysom’s parents.

Sundance Selects

Originally titled “The Promise,” the German documentary “Killing for Love” revisits the case of Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering, the University of Virginia student couple who were convicted in the 1985 killings of Ms. Haysom’s parents. Ms. Haysom pleaded guilty to being an accessory before the fact, but Mr. Soering has maintained that he is not guilty and that he gave a false confession, later recanted, to protect Ms. Haysom, counting on his father’s status as a diplomat to shield him.


Trailer: ‘Killing for Love’

A preview of the film.

By SUNDANCE SELECTS on Publish Date December 13, 2017.

Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive.

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Over the years, Mr. Soering has won allies who have contended his innocence or argued for his repatriation to Germany, where he holds citizenship. The documentary, which features a lengthy prison interview with him, is hardly the first reconsideration of the case. (In 2010, while serving as the state’s governor, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia recommended approval of Mr. Soering’s request to be sent to Germany, where he would serve in prison, though Mr. Kaine’s successor, Gov. Bob McDonnell, reversed that decision.) The movie’s existence and findings have been mentioned in lengthy examinations of the crime in The New Yorker and The Washington Post.

Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger’s sprawling documentary probably dives into the weeds too quickly and could have used a tighter edit. Still, drawing on a wealth of courtroom video, the film lays out a persuasive argument for reasonable doubt.

Those who contribute information favorable to Mr. Soering include Gail Marshall, a former deputy attorney general of Virginia, and Chuck Reid, one of the original investigators. Mr. Soering comes across as a sincere and canny camera presence. He advises the filmmakers to shoot all they can. “You never know whether this will be allowed again,” he says.

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