A film of lustful desire that ended in a double murder in a vicarage
Murder, intrigue and lust are the potent ingredients in the film 'According to Matthew' produced by veteran cinematic personality Chandran Rutnam. The murder in the vicarage gripped the nation in the seventies when a priest of the Anglican faith, Father Matthew Peiris and his lover Dalrene Ingram were accused of murdering their respective spouses in their attempts to get together. The Vicarage of St. Paul's Church in Punchi Borella was the venue where the double murder was systematically carried out by Father Matthew Peries with his mistress. Father Peiris was a well known religious personality who not only dealt with matters of divinity but also to those concerning the dark world of the occult.
'According to Matthew' reignites the story of this couple drawn together in lust that they created two murders most foul. The film stars Jacqueline Fernandez as Dalrene Ingram and Alston Koch as Father Matthew Peiris. The film is dark and dramatic with the underlying sexual tension between Father Matthew and Dalrene aptly portrayed by Alston and Jacqueline. Using a cast of largely unknown actors and actresses with Jacqueline and Alston being the exceptions, in some places the acting was rather ham and clichéd. Apart from that slight hiccup, the film which is based on the court transcriptions, personal interviews, press articles and evidence given in court captures the essence of a murder case born of carnal desire. With the release of the film in May, this case that gripped Sri Lanka four decades ago will undoubtedly draw a whole new generation of Sri Lankans who can acquaint themselves with the intriguing murder in the vicarage.
The director of the film - Chandran Rutnam, a personal friend of Father Matthew Peiris has always wanted to do make a film based on this case. On one occasion when Rutnam was shooting a film in Welikada, he had been personally approached by the incarcerated Father Peiris who had wanted Rutnam to make a film on the case.
Why did you select this story to make into a film?
I was asked to do it by Father Matthew. He was under the impression that he would be released after his appeal. He wanted the movie to show his innocence and his appeal victory in court. But that was not to be. After that, he lost interest and so did I. Twenty five years later, my actor Alston Koch and I discussed it and decided to do it.
Why did you select these particular actors and actresses?
I thought of Alston because I thought he had the ability and also his knowledge about the Bible and Christianity was a factor.
What reaction are you expecting from the church?
Although the church did not cooperate with us in any way, we as filmmakers were able to tell the story. The Catholic Church has already published a statement, that the Catholic Church had nothing to do with this episode. This is about a Protestant priest, and not the church. This is a true story taken from the court records and personal interviews and also my personal knowledge of the man.
How long did it take to make this film?
It took about three years owing to mainly logistical reasons.
Are you planning on screening this film internationally?
Yes, I am. We shall have distribution in the United States of America and Europe and special language screenings in various states in India.
Did you have any objection from the Peiris family and Mrs. Ingram?
I had some conversations with Dalrene's children, but there was real objection.
What appeal do you think this film will have to Sri Lankan audiences?
The older generation that may remember the case will eagerly see the movie. The younger audience who are not aware of the case will watch it since it has a very strong narrative.
What were the locations used in this film?
In Horana, Pettah and areas in the city of Colombo.
What material did the screenwriters base the script on?
Court records, newspaper articles and personal interviews and views.
"I have always enjoyed the work of Paul Scofield and Peter O' Toole and this role gave me the chance to make use of my acting skills which I knew would be strictly accepted due to the character I was portraying. During filming there was an almost eerie feeling everyday on the set as if though Matthew was watching my every step and then having the beautiful Jacqueline there spurring me along if I erred were quite an experience." - Alston Koch
"I had always wanted to make a film on the murders in the vicarage. This film will appeal to all audiences. I hope to release it internationally as it is an intrigue tale of murder and love. I was very happy to work with Jacqueline, Alston and a young cast and production team. This film is a narrative of a true story that gripped that nation in the seventies." - Chandran Rutnam