Story: Jens Soering was in love and like many other young lovers, he seemed poised to do whatever to make his beloved happy and protect their relationship. But even with that kind of dedication, Jens would find himself doing things he never dreamed of and paying some severe consequences. Soering was in love with Elizabeth Haysom, a fellow college student at the time and Jens fell hard, right from the start. The two had an odd relationship at times, but no one expected the dark turn that loomed ahead, one that left Elizabeth’s parents brutally murdered. Jens would later claim that Elizabeth was responsible, but at the time, he covered for her and took the blame, assuming his father’s diplomatic status would protect him. That proved to not be the case however and despite his attempts to change his story, Jens was locked up for life. Meanwhile, Elizabeth would also be put behind bars, still blaming Jens, while he fought to prove his innocence. A true case of twisted romance and intimate betrayal, Killing for Love examines this well known case in depth.
Entertainment Value: This is an interesting true crime documentary, one that holds your attention throughout, but for me, Killing for Love falls short of the genre’s best works. As a documentary, this piece does a good job of explaining the case and fleshing out even the smallest details, but it is unable to bring much to the table as far as new information, so this feels more like a collection of known data, rather than a twisting, turning experience. I suppose it comes across more like a news special, informative and usually interesting, but not standing out as all that memorable. At the same time, Killing for Love does center on a long, in depth interview with Jens and while he has spoken at length at the case before, seeing such a streamlined, down to the minor details presentation of his side of the story was a coup for the picture. Be able to hear Jens’ perspective in his words adds a lot to the movie, though the total absence of Elizabeth is glaring. As a result, the film does seem slanted toward Jens’ story a little by default, though other interviews cover Elizabeth’s story, the police investigation, and more. I also think perhaps the lack of colorful people or big personalities hurts Killing for Love from a cinematic perspective, as some other true crime documentaries benefit from larger than life, memorable participants. So from an entertainment viewpoint, this movie isn’t one of the more shocking or memorable true crime pieces, but it is informative and well produced.
The other side of the coin here is that while the story is interesting, there just doesn’t seem to be enough there to properly fill a feature length documentary. The obvious fix would be to balance out Jens’ screen time with Elizabeth giving her own interviews, but of course that didn’t happen. Beyond the lack of both of the convicted presenting their stories, Killing for Love also feels like it repeats information often or relies on filler interviews at times. These techniques might add to the run time, but they also slow down the pace and in some cases, make the documentary drag more than a little. That brings me back to when I said this has a feel similar texture to a television news special, as perhaps a tighter, more refined hour long edit would have worked better. If it comes across that I am being harsh, I thought it was again a well made, often interesting documentary, I just think it would have been better suited a shorter, more focused program. Even so, fans of true crime are ravenous, so I think anyone who needs a genre fix could spin this without regrets.