Directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Premise: A mistress (Matilda Lutz) vacations at a secluded home with her lover (Kevin Janssens). Two of his friends (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchede) crash their getaway. When one of them assaults her, all three men turn on the lone woman who must fight for survival.
What Works: Among the many different genres of film, few have been debated as fiercely as the rape and revenge flick. Movies like I Spit on Your Grave and Ms. 45 have been denounced by moral watchdog groups across the political spectrum and even respectable mainstream films like The Accused are debated for their representation of sexual violence. Revenge is a stylish and provocative take on the genre. The filmmakers appear fully aware of the history of the rape-revenge film as well as the ongoing debates about it and they engage with those ideas while making a wild and visceral movie. Revenge centers upon a woman, played by Matilda Lutz, who is the mistress to a wealthy man. He takes her to an isolated vacation house where they encounter his creepy friends. The setup of the movie is explicitly sexual and it establishes Lutz’s character as a woman with her own sexual agency but also as someone who caters to male sexual desire, at times taking pleasure in teasing the men. In these early sequences the filmmakers engage with the debates about the rape-revenge genre, specifically the charge that these films sexualize victims, but also the broader debates about sexual violence such as the suggestion that men are somehow provoked by displays of female sexuality. Perhaps most interesting is the way the filmmakers deal with the assault itself; the sequence builds slowly and it is staged in a way that avoids exploiting the attack while still conveying the trauma. From that point, Revenge becomes a survival film with this woman stalked in the desert by the three men. This portion of the story is inventive with Lutz’s character proving herself smart and resourceful. There is a creative tension in Revenge between the picture’s slick filmmaking style and its visceral images. The movie is well paced and crackles with energy but it also has a grotesque showmanship that gives the violence its impact.
What Doesn’t: Revenge isn’t for everybody. It is in many respects an unpleasant film. Its subject matter is inherently disturbing, the male characters are repugnant, and the movie includes considerable violence and gore. In the current cultural environment this film is also likely to find itself upsetting a lot of different political constituencies. That is actually part of the point of the movie and key to its subversiveness. In that respect, Revenge is exactly what it intends to be and it satisfies all the requirements of its genre. But Revenge is not the sort of film that is going to win over any converts or transcend its genre. The film does suffer from some big implausibilities. Several of the characters, but especially the woman played by Matilda Lutz, suffer injuries that should be debilitating and then carry on running and fighting. There’s also some inconsistencies with the makeup effects as wounds disappear or heal overnight.
DVD extras: Trailers.
Bottom Line: Revenge may not be a film for everyone but it is provocative and well-made. The movie deals with tricky subject matter in a way that shows thoughtfulness and craft and the picture delivers on the attractions of its genre in a way that makes the audience think about what they are watching.
Episode: #718 (September 30, 2018)