Revanche is a 2008 Austrian production that was good enough to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It didn’t win, but that isn’t something to be held against a film.
It isn’t an easy film to describe without edging too far into spoiler territory. It has English subtitles but the film isn’t about what the characters say. Instead what they do, and what they feel is paramount.
To give you a little bit of an introduction or set up can be done in just a few sentences. Tamara is working in a brothel in Vienna. Alex also works in the brothel as a combination of bouncer, driver, handyman, and go-fer for the big boss. Alex and Tamara are lovers.
Alex has a plan, actually a few of them. Have a look at the trailer near the end of the review.
Robert is a small town policeman. His wife Susanne works in a groceries store as well as being a housewife. She and her husband want to have children but it isn’t happening.
These four people are going to cross paths and be connected through events most likely for as long as they live. In that sense, one might call this a morality play. Revanche is a German word which has two meanings – one meaning is the more obvious – revenge. The other and less obvious is – that revanche means second chance or new beginning.
The film doesn’t play out the way you expect. In fact as I got deeper and deeper into it, I found that my expectations were wrong in almost every way. Directed and written by Gotz Spielmann, the film is filled with actors that I didn’t know or even recognize as having seen them before. But a cast of unknowns doesn’t say anything about how good a film might be.
Any more about the plot would be unfair. The trailer tells you plenty. Spielmann weaves a taut tale – I’d hesitate to call it a thriller, and to be honest, you won’t be sitting on the edge of your seat. Nor can we call the film a white knuckler – you get white knuckles from having your fists clenched for an extended period of time or by grabbing the armrests of your chair again and again.
But it definitely gets into your head. It meanders along in a slow and orderly fashion. There’s sex involved – Tamara works in a brothel – and there are guns.
There’s also a scenes in the country, walks in a forest, and we see through Alex’s grandfather much about living in a rustic country home, and how solitude may change people.
There’s much to enjoy about this film. But these are small pleasures that you get by watching the film carefully. The director gives us a more than a few thematic signposts, and not much in the way of an instruction manual. By that I mean that the characters aren’t going to tell you all that much to help you connect the dots or understand them.
But since I’ve said that – I must also say that the beauty of the film is how you fill in the story in your own mind. How you create expectations and then find that something else happens.
Three point seven five is my rating. But I do recommend the film. Not for action, not for the sexual situations, and not solely for the existential aspects. But all of those are present and thought provoking.
Next: A discussion about Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.