Director: Coralie Fargeat
Starring: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Gillaume Bouchede
The modern exploitation flick is truly a beautiful thing. Ever since Tarantino, a generation of ambitious directors like Coralie Fargeat have unboxed hundreds of old B-movies for inspiration. The results are the same plots we’ve seen before, but with more care in the process—actors who look like they’re actually in agony, shots that actually highlight a character’s intentions. Revenge certainly is a bloodbath, but it manages to be a self-aware blast in the process, and doesn’t try to be anything else, almost to a fault.
Anyone who’s familiar with the rape-and-revenge genre already knows this story. Boy meets girl. Despite being married, boy takes girl to secret getaway in the desert. Boy’s friend rapes girl. Boy thinks he’s killed girl. But then the girl gets up, and sets out to exact her revenge. Redundant as the explanation is, people ought to know what they’re getting into when they see Revenge. Fun as it is, its certainly not for everyone.
What stopped Revenge from being in the $1 bin at a Wal-Mart was its style and presentation. Its illustrious cinematography by Robrecht Heyvaert brought out the rich full colors of a Chilean desert where nobody can hear you scream. There is also a fixation on miniscule objects and insects, bringing foreshadowing for what’s to come and tension to the predicaments of the film’s protagonist. When a man pisses on a spider, it says more about the man than the helpless arachnid. The blood is saturated, glistening, and everywhere. And Fargeat knew well when to use and restrain the various sounds of his choosing. He chooses to show affection for sounds that bring us into the character’s minds, the realizations and shocks of a horrifying reality. The film itself actually has very little dialog but knows to use music sparingly for moments of tension. The frame focuses predominately on Matilda Lutz’s body in the beginning, as if voyeuristically, whereas the film knows that for Act I, she’s basically a sex object for the guys. But this is justified, as the would-be murderer’s bodies are also fixated on later in the film, but more so as sacks of expendable meat.
While there’s certainly talent in the director’s chair, there is much to be desired in the film’s screenplay. It might come down to personal preference, but a shred of development in characters is asked for when I’m asked to sit down for a movie that’s almost two hours long. It’s easy to appreciate one that carries an entire plot with so little dialog, but any visual cues or affirmations of any of the character’s (especially the protagonist’s) histories would have been very useful in maintaining interest in the film. Reinventing the wheel with a decades-old genre can be fun, but its so short-sighted if that’s your sole ambition.
The screenplay’s lack of dialog is truly an advantage at times, considering some of the dialog can be seen as weak and unbelievable. The performances between our victim and our killer are excellent, but the other two men are lacking. The light banter between the main girl and her rapist before the terrible event occurs is less believable than the event itself, compromising the experience to a point. An overdose of style is evident in some places as well, as not every bite of a chocolate bar needs its own slow-motion shot.
It’s exciting to see genres like rape-and-revenge redone with such care. I can only hope to see more films like this in the horror and action genre, aside from another Insidious or Taken. Many will be deterred, however, by its all-too-real scenario. In this, one can see Revenge’s most admirable quality, in that it takes a taboo subject and delivers it quickly and off-camera. Then it delivers what the people came for—Its title, in a way that most will actually enjoy watching.