Revanche

"Excellent"

Revanche Review


We see the man, Alex (Johannes Krisch), from the beginning, capable of violence but with a discernable gentleness. He's in love with Tamara (Irina Potapenko), a Ukrainian woman. They both work for an overweight pimp: He as muscle, she as a prostitute. He needs eighty grand to buy into a bar; she's thirty grand in debt as it is. His plan is to rob a bank, marry her, and live out the rest of his days as a bartender.

Then we meet another man, Robert (Andreas Lust), a cop with a wife named Susanne (Ursula Strauss). They live in a nice house out in the country and the wife goes to church with the old man up the street. He wants to get his wife pregnant but it is seemingly impossible. One day, he is held up at gunpoint while a robber gets away, but he gets off a few shots as the robber drives away. The robber is Alex, and one of the policeman's bullets hits and kills Tamara.

The way Götz Spielmann's spellbinding Revanche, which translates to "Revenge," reveals itself never feels deliberate. There are images throughout its two-hour span that are simple and devastating, reminiscent of the visions that Austria, Spielmann's home country, has brought to the screen in the last decade, yet it never feels contrived. Spielmann, who has done most of his work in television, opens the film with the image of rippling water and the film's aesthetic is very much an extension of that image: actions and reactions but never a glimpse at the murk below.

In composition, the film is all parallels, repetition, and mirror images. Part Christian parable and part pulp revenge story, it litters its landscape with signs of the cross and fetishizes the act of Alex sawing wood. Returning to his grandfather's house to lie low, Alex finds himself with a reincarnated version of Tamara in Susanne, who flirts carelessly with him.

As tension builds, Revanche hints at an act of violence but never fully embraces it. That is, at least not in the way you expect it to. There is one cathartic act of lustful carnality that happens about halfway through the movie and then once more off-screen. Oddly, the act both diffuses and intensifies the emotions that Spielmann and his cast have allowed to be drawn out and breathe over the film's two hours. There is very little new about the story, but it has an eerie rhythm both to its movement and composition that transfixes you with the slightest raise of the chest or placement of an arm.

An existential parry to Todd Field's magnificent In the Bedroom and, maybe, David Cronenberg's towering A History of Violence, Revanche is one of the best films to come out of Austria this decade, filled with the same drifting solemnity on which Our Daily Bread and the criminally unreleased Import/Export were built. It takes us until the film's final measures to see the skipped stone that caused the ripples in the water as Alex and Robert talk to each other for the first and last time. But in actuality, they have been communicating through what they do and how they treat Susanne. One man has been seeking her comfort and pity; the other has been distant and blunt with her. In the end, all three characters seem to get what they want, but only Susanne seems to know the cost.

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Revanche

Facts and Figures

Run time: 121 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th May 2008

Distributed by: Janus Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Götz Spielmann

Producer: Götz Spielmann, Sandra Bohle, Mathias Forberg, Heinz Stussak

Starring: Johannes Krisch as Alex, Irina Potapenko as Tamara, Michael-Joachim Heiss as Tagportier, Andreas Lust as Robert, Hanno Pöschl as Konecny, Ursula Strauss as Susanne, Johannes Thanheiser as Der Alte

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