(REVENGE IS NOW AVAILABLE ON VOD FROM ALL GOOD OUTLETS)
Directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Starring: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincente Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède
On a weekend away with her lover Richard in the middle of the desert, a beautiful and free spirited young woman called Jen is raped by one of her lover's friends. Rather than help her, Richard tries to buy her silence and when that doesn't work, he throws her off a cliff. Jen barely survives the fall, thanks to a tree branch impaling her before she hits the ground, and is able to crawl away before Richard and his friends come to get rid of her body. Thus begins a deadly game of cat and mouse, as Jen is a hell of a lot more resourceful than her would-be killers realise…
There are some films that you fall in love with very early on. Revenge is one such film. Within five shots, the editing, camera angles, music, colour scheme, all came together beautifully and I was hooked for the rest of the film. This is an assured and confident film-maker at work, dealing with a difficult subject and giving us a very resourceful heroine to cheer for.
Things start out innocuously enough - Jen and Richard are flown by helicopter to his remote hunting lodge situated in the middle of the (unspecified) desert. This guy is obviously mega-rich: the lodge is jaw-droppingly beautiful with a large infinity pool - and its just the place he uses now and again. However the seeds of discontent soon follow: we learn that, actually, Richard is cheating on his wife, who's at home planning a Holy Communion dinner. Its not clear that Jen was aware that he was already married, but she seems a bit put out to be the "other woman".
Then the next morning, Dmitri and Stan arrive a day early, before Richard has meant to send Jen on her way back to the city. Jen doesn't mind though, and that evening they have a bit of a party with lots of drinking, laughter and dancing. Very sexy dancing, as Jen puts on a bit of a sexy show with her moves.
The next morning however, Richard has to go meet the Park Ranger to sort out hunting permits, leaving Jen alone with Stan and Dmitri. Stan becomes more aggressive towards Jen, angry that she's no longer acting the way she was the night before. He doesn't realise that the night before she felt she was in a safe place with her boyfriend watching over her. Now she's more vulnerable and knows it. Stan takes things too far and rapes her.
The film isn't too explicit about this moment - it's harsh, but director Coralie Fargeat isn't concerned with rubbing our noses in it too much. Instead she focusses on other moments - Dmitri walking into the room, seeing what's happening and walking back out, turning the tv up to drown out Jen's screams. Then Richard comes home.
Everyone who's ever climaxed knows there is that moment of clarity afterwards - when the veil of lust subsides and you are brought back down to earth. There's nowhere for Stan to go - he's stuck in the middle of the desert, the only car is currently being driven by Richard, probably on his way back to the lodge. The film captures the awkwardness perfectly as Richard walks in and Stan has to tell him there’s been an “incident” while he was out. Richard’s actions make it clear that he’s not so much angry that Stan attacked his girlfriend, he’s angry about what it’s going to cost to fix.
Jen proves to be very resourceful in her attempts to survive. The way she manages to get free of the tree branch which has impaled her abdomen is very innovative and I doubt many people would have tried her approach. Similarly, the way she learns who to use the rifle she manages to get hold of, and the way she cauterizes her wound (Rambo would be proud).
This is a very bloody, visceral film. Jen’s impalement on the branch is nasty enough (especially with ants crawling around the wound) but there are also gunshot wounds to tend with and one of the nastiest moments involving broken glass you’re ever likely to see. By the end, Jen and the surviving protagonist are slipping and sliding in their own blood as they both try to get the upper hand, covering Richard’s once pristine lodge in gore.
A lot has been made of the film’s sexual politics, especially with consideration to the fact that the director is a woman. This isn’t trying to deconstruct or re-invent the r/revenge genre but there is definitely an element of #MeToo in the situation, especially in the way that they men try to cover it up (before Jen gets pushed off the cliff). Richard clearly thinks that Jen is an empty-headed bimbo because he tries to placate her by saying the reason she was assaulted is because she’s just too damn pretty – hey, it’s a compliment!
For me, the most damning moment comes through what isn’t said. At one point, Stan complains to Richard that he shouldn’t have pushed Jen off the cliff. What really surprised me is that Richard doesn’t immediately come back and suggest maybe Stan shouldn’t have raped his girl! Never crosses his mind to mention it!
REVENGE is one of the most stylish action thrillers of the year. The editing, score, art direction, bloody catharsis all come together to really deliver a genius film.