Written and directed by Coralie Fargeat
Let’s get one thing straight from the get go, Revenge is a rape and revenge movie patterned after the old school exploitation flicks. But it’s also a major deconstruction of the genre, twisting tropes and incorporating aspects from super hero movies (and some of their tropes as well!) Most importantly, it is a fun as heck movie despite the subject matter and was a great choice for a SFIFF viewing pick!
Revenge is a startlingly beautiful film, with cinematography for days, vivid colors, neon that burns through with a beautiful but neutral enough Moroccan desert environment to make things aesthetic but not distracting. It’s full of shots that will be popping up on tumblr as gifs when there is a proper release. It is loaded with plenty of imagery for subtext including an apple with a bite taken out of it (often looked back on as the apple slowly decays) as well as rebirth imagery including a phoenix image the features prominently in a memorable scene during a peyote-induced fever dream. It’s well paced, the only sequences that seem to go on too long are purposefully designed that way for suspense or to foster a general sense of uneasiness. Beyond that, things fly by to keep the action steady. Even with all that Revenge is trying to say, it keeps the story on track so you don’t feel bogged down. Exactly the kind of movie that will lead to new discoveries on rewatches, as you were too busy having fun the first time through to notice some of the smaller details. There’s even a great argument for keeping wires on your earbuds!
Jen (Matilda Lutz) is brought to her lover Richard’s (Kevin Janssens) desert hideaway for some pre-getaway fun before he goes on his annual hunting expedition with his two friends. The friends arrive early, one (Vincent Colombe’s Stan) has an eye for Jen that results in him raping her while Richard is away, the other (Dimitri, played by Guillaume Bouchède) not caring one bit. Richard grows violent when Jen wants to leave and threatens to contact his wife, and he shoves her off a cliff, where she’s impaled on a tree. Of course she isn’t dead, because she’s got to get the revenge section going! Soon the three men are being hunted down, and they aren’t going to take this without a fight.
Matilda Lutz is amazing as Jen, the fun-loving mistress whose world is shattered and she’s reborn as a bloodied revenge seeker hunting down those that tried to kill her. There is a complete transformation in her tone and body language. The men are equally despicable in their own ways, from entitled killer to perverted degenerate to slobbish enabler who gets off on suffering. You want them all to die and not in an easy way. So it is
As you can quite imagine, rape and revenge is a controversial exploitation genre, and not just because of the rape. It’s more because some of the entries seem to regard the rape scenes as some sort of thing to either to be proud of making you very uncomfortable or to titillate the kinds of people who enjoy watching rape sequences. In any event, it is not a genre for the masses for the obvious reasons. We have covered them before, and will cover them again. While I largely just watch and write about films I enjoy, most of the genre doesn’t fall into that sphere. I do stray out of there from time to time. A lot of things you might not expect to mean anything often have a lot to say, if you can listen.
Some of the reviews I saw mentioned there was a ton of blood. And it is bloody, with blood even factoring into the action in some scenes. But having seen a lot of splatter gore films, there really isn’t that much blood, just a lot of blood. I expected geysers blasting into the sky and rivers of blood. Now excuse me while I put on sunglasses as I am too cool for blood school…
This was a stunning debut feature, and I will be following Coralie Fargeat wherever the movie winds take her!
One thing that was a downer was that one of the logos in the front was for Neon, which is a distribution group cofounded by Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse, the very group I specifically said I was avoiding. Which meant I screwed up by watching this, but it was too late by the time I found out, during the movie. But you got to sort of appreciate the irony of Tim League’s group distributing a movie where a woman gets revenge against men who wronged her.
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