Director: Coralie Fargeat
Script: Coralie Fargeat
Cast: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchede, Coralie Fargeat
Running time: 108 minutes
A helicopter touches down outside an exclusive villa in the desert. Out of said helicopter steps a middle-aged CEO, Richard (Kevin Janssens), and his young mistress Jen (Matilda Lutz). Richard is hoping to have a day or two alone with Jen before his business associates turn up to go hunting with him. However, after only a few hours Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede) turn up expecting to have a lads’ night of drinking poolside before going hunting the following day. Jen, anxious to please her boyfriend and mentor, Richard, parties with them, and even flirts quite outrageously with sleazy Stan after having a few jars.
The next morning Jen awakes to find Richard has gone out to the local town to sort out some paperwork, hence leaving her alone with the other two. Things quickly turn ugly when Stan makes leering advances toward Jen and is unsurprisingly rebuffed by the young woman. Refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer he rapes her, an act which is discovered by Dimitri who, instead of stopping Stan, just turns away, closes the door, and turns up the volume on the TV so he can’t hear Jen’s shrill screams.
When Richard returns he quickly assesses the situation and decides to offer Jen ‘hush money’ so that she doesn’t cause him and his associates any trouble or scandal. She tells him where to go and runs off, being chased by all three anxious men. They eventually corner her at a nearby cliff edge and, from that point on, things get extremely messy indeed!
Revenge has been wowing festival audiences for a while now and when I heard that an associate of mine had worked on it I was keen to check it out.
The film definitely falls into the rape-revenge sub-genre, and is a gritty and gruesome thrill-ride that takes no prisoners in its depiction of cruelty and ultra-violence. Mercifully the rape itself is not really seen, although the psychological bullying beforehand is really disturbing and very uncomfortable to sit through.
Jen’s story-arc, as she goes from being a naïve young woman full of dreams and aspirations to a blood-caked sultry phoenix rising from the ashes of her own near-death experience, is quite something to behold. And her assailants aren’t the usual one-dimensional villains you normally get in these kinds of films. For example, Richard starts off as being a decent-enough guy to Jen, offering her a leg-up into the career of her dreams, even if there’s never any question of him leaving his wife for her, since he has no intention of putting his beloved family unit in jeopardy. And even Stan, although unlikable, is clearly a man who is fed-up with being over-looked by women who he fancies; knowing that they look down on him because of his short stature and other less attractive physical features. His act of rape seems to be borne out of years of frustration and rejection by all kinds of women throughout his life. Obviously, one can never condone his actions, but director and writer, Coralie Fargeat, has made him a more believable bastard. And the third cog in the wheel of toxic masculinity, Dimitri, is a cowardly, small-minded man; always a follower of stronger personalities and, even when he becomes something more formidable later on, you can see that he doesn’t really believe his own bluster either.
The film looks stunning and cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert has done a great job at conveying the stark contrasting colours of the desert with the vivid blue skies overhead. The acting is excellent, without a weak performance in sight, and the visual effects are great too; mostly done in-camera, which is always wonderful for gore-hounds like me!
I think Fargeat’s direction is very good too, although if I had one criticism of the film it’s that she tends to stay on certain shots for too long, which turns them from ‘money-shots’ to more mundane ones because they’ve out-stayed their welcome. For example, there’s a sequence where Jen is riding a motorcycle through the desert at night, which is a great shot, with great music overlying it, but because she extends the shot for too long it feels more like a commercial for the bike and not a valid sequence for actual storytelling. And, since I mentioned the music, kudos must be given to composer Robin Coudert who has produced a very cool John Carpenter-esque soundtrack that suits the visuals really well.
All in all Revenge is a very well made and enjoyable first feature film by a female director to watch.
Second Sight is distributing Revenge on Blu-Ray. There are a number of special features including:
Audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor of Diabolique magazine
Out for Blood (43 mins) – An insightful interview with director Coralie Fargeat and actor Matilda Lutz. We learn that Lutz wasn’t the first choice of actress for the role and that Fargeat’s inspirations for the film were Kill Bill and Rambo.
The Coward (14.5 mins) – An interview with actor Guillaume Bouchede who admits that this was his first gene film and that he’d been asked to ‘fatten-up’ a month before the shoot.
Fairy Tale Violence (24 mins) – An informative interview with cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert who explains how certain shots were achieved, how the film’s look was created (with filters mostly) and what his main inspirations were – i.e. Mad Max: Fury Road and Dust Devil.
Death Notes (24.5 mins) – A nice interview with composer Robin Coudert who had previously scored the remake of Maniac and also Horns, the Daniel Radcliffe film. He explains that his musical influences are scores such as The Fearless Vampire Killers and The Mission.