An impressive amount of access – and diligence – sets this true crime documentary apart from others. The Promise‘s angle of Jens Söring’s possible (and protested) innocence – he claims to have provided a false murder confession in an attempt to spare girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom the electric chair – is underpinned by a recent video interview with him.
Meanwhile, others involved in the 1990 trial contribute, in archive and original footage, as well as the defense team that has built up around Söring during the ensuing years. This being the first criminal trial in front of live TV cameras also means astonishing insight. The stories of Söring’s trial and his current fight for repatriation to his native Germany are neatly told alongside one another, unfolding concurrently and maintaining tension, although timelines are slightly confusing to grasp at the beginning.
Another intriguing hook in this case – one that is smartly capitalised on by Vetter and Steinberger – is the stream of love letters that Haysom and Söring wrote to one another, detailing their inner turmoil, lust for one another and fantasies of ‘changing’ or killing her parents. Without these, it is doubtful that the two would have been charged with murder, arrested as they were for cashing dodgy cheques after going on the run. These vitally important letters are read in voiceover by actors Daniel Brühl and Imogen Poots, who interpret the pair and their passions well, and undoubtedly also provide the documentary with a boost thanks to their profiles.
The Promise is pregnant with drama – a shocking double murder perpetrated by two high-achieving ‘outsiders’, plus drugs, a borderline personality disorder and alleged sexual abuse. It’s cold to list the details of the case in such a way, but it is this very salaciousness that draws in the viewer.
CAST: Daniel Brühl, Imogen Poots
DIRECTORS: Karin Steinberger, Marcus Vetter
WRITERS: Karin Steinberger, Marcus Vetter
SYNOPSIS: A documentary exploring the sensational case and murder trials of Jens Söring and Elizabeth Haysom, both incarcerated for the brutal murder of her parents in 1985. In light of new evidence and a more thorough examination of circumstances, Jens Söring’s protestations of innocence could begin to hold more sway – despite his guilty plea.
A screener of The Promise was kindly provided by Bertha DocHouse.