A True Story
The Sunday Times
The Daily Telegraph
“I felt like the hero in Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities”, who gave his life for love.”
Obsessed young lovers, obscene murders, a sensational trial, and a shocking miscarriage of justice. KILLING FOR LOVE is a riveting dissection of the prosecution’s case, the courtroom battle played out on television, and the disturbing aftermath. Convicted of brutally murdering his girlfriend’s parents, Jens Soering has been in prison for over 30 years. The film reveals for the first time the mounting evidence of his innocence: the FBI profile of the killer withheld from the jury, the bloody footprint and unidentified fingerprints pointing to other perpetrators, and the new exculpatory DNA analysis. Highly cinematic in the way of The Staircase, as suspenseful as Serial, and as confounding as Making of a Murderer, KILLING FOR LOVE delivers a powerful story that is indeed, stranger than fiction.
“Every morning, when I open my eyes and see the thick bars across my window I cannot help but think back to that evening my downfall began.”
Perhaps their lives would have turned out differently if Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom had not kept their love letters. When they were arrested in London on April 30, 1986, it was the collection of love letters that aroused suspicion with the police. In these letters Jens and Elizabeth frequently fantasized about the death or transformation of Elizabeth’s parents, prompting the investigators make inquiries with Virginia law enforcement. In those pre-Internet times, in which cooperation and communication between jurisdictions, let alone in different countries, was uncommon, except for the letters, Jens and Elizabeth might have gotten away with just the cheque fraud they were arrested for. In our bonus material, you can find exclusive excerpts from these letters – read by Daniel Bruehl and Imogen Poots. They illustrate how obsessive and tempestuous this love was.
“When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies, That she might think me some untutored youth, unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.”
Sonnet 138, Shakespeare
The first time Karin Steinberger met Jens Soering in person, he had already been a prisoner for 20 years. He had spent more time incarcerated than walking free. That was in August 2006. He was talking about his great love for Elizabeth Haysom, about lies and betrayal. It was a flood of words; he spoke as if his life depended on it. And repeatedly this one phrase: I am innocent.
That was 10 years ago. Since then he wrote her nearly every day, his letters are full of rage, and sometimes of hope. And there are news with every visit: There was a parole-hearing, during which the chairman fell asleep, in front of everyone present. Like all pervious parole applications, this one was also denied. Then there was this new witness, who exonerated Soering, but no official had any interest in him. There was DNA evidence from the crime scene, but none matched that of Jens Soering. A moment of hope came when Tim Kaine, the democratic governor of Virginia, declared Jens Soering’s transfer to Germany. And it was destroyed when his republican successor, Bob McDonnell stopped the transfer on his first day in office. Jens Soering stayed prisoner number 1161655, given two life sentences for the murder on Nancy and Derek Haysom, who were stabbed to death in their home in Lynchburg, Virginia, on March 30th, 1985. The question that still lingers: Is Jens Soering guilty beyond reasonable doubt?
Three years ago Karin Steinberger asked Marcus Vetter if he would like to make a movie about this case. All those inconsistencies, procedural errors, and unanswered questions. The story seemed far from finished. At this moment Jens Soering was in prison for 27 years.
Karin and Marcus have worked together previously, on two documentaries: “Hunger“ (2009) and “The Forecaster“ (2015). And now they looked at the Haysom-killing, a story that seemed written in Hollywood. Two brilliant students meet each other at the University of Virginia, she was beautiful and bold, he was very intelligent and arrogant. They fall in love, become a couple, and then Elizabeth’s parents get killed.
At first the police have no traces, but they get closer and closer to the couple. So Elizabeth and Jens flee to Asia, Europe, and finally get caught in London for cashing bad cheques. They both confess the murder during interrogations, then revoke. Soering says, he confessed to safe her from the electric chair. Haysom says: He did it. The great love turned into a deadly betrayal.
The interview with Jens Soering by Steinberger and Vetter in the Buckingham Correctional Center is the last he is allowed to give in front of a camera. Since then: No more filming. By accident Steinberger and Vetter get the complete video footage of the processes. The gruesome double murder was a public sensation back then in the US, to be seen every day live on TV. The footage is another sensation, you can see everything: How Elizabeth Haysom wraps herself up in lies, how Jens Soering’s lawyer fails because of the special procedural rules in the state of Virgina, how Jens Soering’s with his juvenile arrogance turns everyone against him, how facts get twisted and how crucial questions never get asked.
The movie shooting has its own impact: Steinberger and Vetter get to know the FBI-agent, who had made a perpetrator profile; however its existence has been denied by officials to this very day. Together with a private investigator Steinberger and Vetter search for witnesses who, without any stated reason, have never been asked to give testimony in court. They learn that the abuse of Elizabeth Haysom by her mother is still a taboo. Nude pictures of Elizabeth taken by Nancy Haysom are to this day under seal and cannot to be found.
Jens Soering was in prison for 30 years, one month and 24 days when the movie had its world premiere on June 24th, 2016 at the Filmfest in Munich. The movie’s effects are already noticeable. What remains is one crucial question: Is Jens Soering guilty, beyond reasonable doubt?
Munich, August 8th, 2016
This season, on The Truth About True Crime, host Amanda Knox explores the perplexing and sensationalized case from the docu-series Killing for Love, streaming on Sundance Now. Listen as she untangles a tale of obsessed young lovers, heinous murders, and a shocking miscarriage of justice that eerily parallels her own story.
We are pleased to announce the U.S. theatrical and VOD launch of “The Promise” as “Killing for Love”, opening in New York City at the IFC Center, and in Los Angeles at Laemmle Royal, on Friday, December 15. The film is being released by IFC Films/Sundance Selects, additional US cities will be announced soon.
(A week of screenings per city)
|12/15/2017||New York||IFC Center (1)||Buy Tickets|
|12/15/2017||Los Angeles||Laemmle Royal (2)||Buy Tickets|
|12/15/2017||Lynchburg||Liberty University (3)|
|12/22/2017||Hollywood||Arena CineLounge||Buy Tickets|
|12/29/2017||Baltimore||Parkway Theatre||Buy Tickets|
|12/29/2017||Chattanooga||Palace Picture House||Buy Tickets|
|12/29/2017||Columbus||Gateway Film Center||Buy Tickets|
|12/30/2017||Winchester||Alamo Drafthouse||Buy Tickets|
|01/03/2018||Montclair||Cinema 505||Buy Tickets|
|01/05/2018||Richmond||Criterion Cinemas||Buy Tickets|
|01/12/2018||Greensboro||Red Cinemas Midtown||Buy Tickets|
|01/12/2018||Salem||Cinema Salem 3||Buy Tickets|
|01/19/2018||Albuquerque||Guild Cinema||Buy Tickets|
|01/21/2018||Plymouth||Flying Monkey||Buy Tickets|
|01/26/2018||Brunswick||Frontier Cafe (4)||Buy Tickets|
|02/04/2018||Waterville||Railroad Square 3 (5)||Buy Tickets|
|03/02/2018||Pittsfield||Little Cinema Berkshire Museum||Buy Tickets|
|03/07/2018||Norfolk||Naro Expanded(6)||Buy Tickets|
|03/22/2018||Charlottesville||Violet Crown Cinema||Buy Tickets|
|03/24/2018||Portland||Museum of Art (7)||Buy Tickets|
(Q&A and panel discussions with special guests)
(1) Post-screening Q&A with producer Louise Rosen, Sheriff J.E. “Chip” Harding, Albemarle County, VA and Atty Jane Pucher, Innocence Project, NY
(2) Post-screening Q&A with consulting producer Peter Broderick and special guest Martin Sheen
(3) Special sneak preview, Q&A with DNA expert and Liberty University faculty member Dr. Tom McClintock and Jens Soering´s attorney Steve Rosenfield
(4) Post-screening Q&A with producer Louise Rosen and Atty Amy Fairfield, board member Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
(5) Post-screening Q&A with producer Louise Rosen and attorney Logan Perkins (Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) This was canceled due to weather
(6) Post-screening Q&A with Bill Sizemore, journalist and author (co-author with Jens Soering of It’s a Far, Far Better Thing), with special guest Sheriff J.E. “Chip” Harding
(7) March 24: Post-screening Q&A with producer Louise Rosen
March 25 – Post-screening panel discussion, introduced by Dean Danielle Conway, University of Maine School of Law, moderated by Professor Thea Johnson with special guests Atty Amy Fairfield and her client Anthony Sanborn, recently released after serving 27 years of a 70 year murder conviction. Other guests tba.
Tuesady, March 6, 2018 | 6.30 pm
Co-directors Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger will participate in a post-screening Q&A with film critic and author Geoff Pevere. The true crime Tuesdays: All is not what it seems in this six-film series, all accompanied by special guest discussions. Co-presented by Toronto True Crime Film Festival.
Location: 506 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1Y3 Canada
We are pleased to announce that the filmmakers Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger will go on a journey with their documentary “The Promise – First love life sentence”. After the screenings, they will be available for questions and answers, giving the audience exclusive insights into the background of the film as well as on current developments in the case of Jens Soering.
|Th.||20.10.||Stuttgart||Delphi Filmtheater**||07.30 pm||more|
|Th.||27.10.||Munich||Neues Maxim*||07.00 pm||more|
|Sa.||29.10.||Berlin||Filmkunst 66||05.30 pm||more|
|Sa.||29.10.||Berlin||Sputnik Kino||07.30 pm||more|
|Su.||30.10.||Potsdam||Thalia Programmkino||10.30 am||more|
|Su.||30.10||Leipzig||Passage Kino||04.30 pm||more|
|Mo.||31.10.||Hamburg||Abaton Kino||08.00 pm||more|
|Tu.||01.11.||Hannover||Kino am Raschplatz*||08.30 pm||more|
* Without Marcus Vetter
** Without Karin Steinberger (appointment in Nuremberg only with ski circuit)
Bertha Doc House is the UK’s first cinema dedicated solely to documentary. Based at Curzon Bloomsbury in Central London, we screen the best new releases, festival favourites, retrospective titles and curated seasons providing an exciting platform for documentary filmmakers and nurturing a new generation of doc lovers. With a programme packed with filmmaker Q&As, masterclasses, discussions, special events and an online hub accessible from anywhere in the world, Bertha DocHouse is the home of documentary.
From January 13 to 26, 2017, Bertha Doc House will present “The Promise” exclusively in the Curzon Bloomsbury, The Brunswick, London, WC1N 1AW.
Filmperspketive is proud to announce BBC Storyville‘s presentation of
The 1 x 117 version of “The Promise” will be broadcast as “Killing for Love“ in the UK by our co-production partner BBC Storyville. Storyville is a documentary portal, presented by the BBC, which shows the best of international documentary films.
On Video on Demand on BBC Storyville iPlayer
Simultaneously, the BBC offers the serial version of 6×28 minutes on the BBC video-on-demand service iPlayer. Storyville is a documentary portal, presented by the BBC, which shows the best of international documentary films.
The film “The Promise” broadcast by the Belgium TV station VRT in a 117 minutes version and the directors cut as a 3-part version (3×58 minutes) on Februray 6 (part 1), February 13 (part 2) and February 20 (part3). Available online now on VRT NU.
“The Promise” will be broadcast in the Netherlands by our co-production partner, the Dutch TV channel VPRO, as a 2-part version (2×85 minutes). Broadcast on NPO2 on April 25 (Part 1) and April 26 (part 2) and subsequently offered on video-on-demand.
The Daily Progress, December 23, 2017
The film, for all of its true-crime conventions — including an opening shot that leers into the gruesome murder scene through a series of police photographs — establishes both a timeline and a steady trickle of reasonable doubt through its two-hour run time. Interviews with investigators and attorneys who have all reached their own conclusions regarding Soering’s guilt are intercut with grainy video of the trials that led to Soering’s conviction, the first of their kind to be broadcast in Virginia. Full review
Whatnottodoc, December 15, 2017
After a high-profile, televised trial – the first of its kind – the prosecution felt that justice had been served. But Elizabeth’s and Jens’s versions differ wildly, encompassing dark family secrets, selfless love, and broken promises – leading to an indictment of the American justice system. In their gripping investigation, Vetter and Steinberger explore what really happened on that fateful night, and why. Full review
The Hollywood Reporter, December 14, 2017 by Frank Scheck
Featuring compelling real-life figures who practically invite casting guesses for the inevitable Hollywood dramatization, Killing for Love should easily satisfy viewers who can’t get enough of this stuff. Full review
The New York Times, December 14, 2017 by Ben Kenigsberg
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. Full review
The Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2017 by Robert Abele
A gripping murder mystery about the fated coupling of a pair of calculating romantics too smart for their own good, and the limits of the American justice system. Full Review
Red Carpet Crash, December 13, 2017 by Caitlin Zeigler
This documentary is very interesting and shows what’s wrong with the justice system. With voice work from Daniel Brühl reading Jens Söring’s letters and Imogen Poots reading Elizabeth Haysom’s letters, this doc discusses the case that saw two young lovers commit murder to be with each other. There is so much more to the story than what is initially mentioned. Full Review
Film Journal International, December 13, 2017 by Chris Barsanti
A bloody 1985 double homicide and the media hysteria that encircled it are revisited in this deeply sourced but frustrating investigation of whether justice was truly served. Full Review
The Daily Beast, December 9, 2017 by Nick Schager
Earlier this year, Netflix’s The Confession Tapes recounted, via six real-life cases, the ways in which false confessions might be elicited by law enforcement. But what if an untrue admission wasn’t the byproduct of coercion, or a suspect’s lack of education, or the terrible pressure of a given circumstance, but the result of maniacal love?That’s the argument forwarded by Killing for Love, Karin Steinberger and Marcus Vetter’s riveting new documentary, whose two-hour theatrical version (debuting Friday, Dec. 15 in NY and LA) has been assembled from a larger six-part TV series that aired earlier this year on the BBC. Full Review
Triad City Beat, March 29, 2017 by Eric Ginsburg
Propelled by an eerie rendition of “I Put A Spell On You,” the opening sequence of The Promise bumps down country Virginia roads, coming to a stop at the Haysom home. The bottom falls out as the music disappears, and gruesome images of murdered couple Nancy and Derek Haysom lying on their floor provide a jarring kickstart to the film. The Promise is another engrossing story of how wrong the so-called justice system can go, the kind of documentary that would appeal to anyone who consumed Serial or “Making a Murderer,” or the type of person who reads true-crime thrillers. It’s filled with all sorts of sordid details and captivating characters, and the more it progresses the more it appears that Elizabeth did indeed put a spell on the young Soering, who claims he tried to take a noble fall for his love despite no involvement in the crime. Full Review
The Guardian, March 8, 2017 by Chitra Ramaswamy
A compelling documentary reveals that the story of the 1985 murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom is as perplexing as ever. It begins in the way all true crime must begin. Slow zoom shots of a house encircled by police tape. A blood-spattered shoe. Creepy interiors. Bodies. More blood. Here is the crime scene: the heart of a murder mystery we know will be fraught with more inconsistencies and outlandish twists than an episode of Sherlock. These images will now haunt me for days. Anyone who has binged on Making a Murderer, Serial or even Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (the original true-crime “non-fiction novel”) will know the cocktail of emotions this increasingly popular and morally dubious genre induces: obsessive fascination, horror, cynicism and loss of faith in the justice system. I, for one, am getting sick of the bitter aftertaste. Read more
Huffington Post, March 3, 2017 by Sean O´Grady
At the end of it all – and watching it and the old trial footage was like being a juror at some kind of retrial – the best conclusion was the pragmatic one reached by the Governor of Virginia Tim Kaine in 2010, which was that Soering had already served a conventionally long sentence and was no danger to the public and could be safely packed off to Germany. That said, miscarriages of justice sometimes turn out to be no such thing, even if they have distinguished journalists and “new evidence” coming forward that appears compelling. At all events, it made for morbidly fascinating viewing, even at an extraordinary length for modern telly. Full Review
Financial Times, March 3, 2017 by Martin Hoyle
There are moments in the totally riveting Killing for Love when a fictional thriller suggests itself, complete with casting. The two young people (they met when he was 18, she a couple of years older) on trial for murdering her parents suggest the sort of British actors we are so rich in. She softly spoken, almost inaudible, hinting at unspeakable attentions from her mother, the educated voice evoking her Canadian-European background; he, round-faced and bespectacled, looking far younger, quick wit enunciated in perfect English, is from a German diplomatic family. The letters produced smoulder with passion. What a drama! Full Review
Cinevue, January 13, 2017
An absorbing true crime documentary. Full review
Brooklyn Magazine, November 9, 2016
Familiar and satisfying…continues in the “New True Crime” tradition. Full review
The Guardian, November 5, 2016 by Kate Connolly
A new documentary makes its US premiere at the Virginia film festival on Saturday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville – where Söring and Haysom first met in 1984. Considerable resentment has been expressed locally that it is being shown at all. The Promise is also due to be serialised in six parts in the UK on the BBC in March. Full Review
Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 19, 2016 by Markus Schmidt
One of the on-screen highlights is the North America premiere of the film documentary “The Promise,” directed by German journalist Karin Steinberger, that re-examines the murder of Nancy and Derek Haysom in Bedford County and the subsequent trials of their daughter, Elizabeth Haysom, and Jens Soering, her German boyfriend, three decades ago. “Our goal is to tell the story of a miserable, destroyed life that started with a big love between two young people,” Steinberger said in a phone interview from Munich. The journalist, who has written about the case since 2006 and has interviewed Soering several times, is planning to attend the screening. Full Review
C-Ville, September 29, 2016 by Lisa Provence
The centerpiece film will be the North American premiere of The Promise, the German-made documentary of the 1985 murders of the Haysoms, which riveted Central Virginia and put UVA students Elizabeth Haysom, their daughter, and Jens Soering, her besotted boyfriend, behind bars. Soering, who has maintained his innocence, recently filed a petition for absolute pardon. Read more