Uh oh! It’s another hooker in peril film! That’s how “Revanche” begins, anyway. But in two hours, filmmaker Gotz Spielmann smoothly transports us from the seedy Vienna red light district to a tranquil farmhouse setting in this tense, and even a little naughty, revenge tale. From the film’s opening moments you won’t be able to guess where the whole thing ultimately ends up and that’s one of the many endearing qualities of “Revanche.”
And that is also why I am going to spoiler alert right now. It’s something I normally don’t do, but I would like to discuss the plot a little bit and in doing so I feel like I would be spoiling the journey this film takes you on. So if you feel like you would like to see this movie, don’t bother reading any further and just take it from me – “Revanche” is an extremely fine slice of European cinema.
Our story begins with Alex and Tamara in love. Problem is, both of them work at the same brothel – Tamara as a prostitute and Alex as the brothel boss’ errand boy. Relationships between employees are strictly forbidden, especially when the boss is playing head games with Tamara in trying to find new ways to w***e her out to high paying customers. Alex and Tamara are desperate to escape this cruel and sleazy life and thus springs forth a bank robbery plan. Despite Alex’s insistence that the plan is foolproof, Tamara is weary, but reluctantly agress to tag along. And, as Alex predicted, the robbery goes off without a hitch. It’s just the getaway that brings about a fatal error and Tamara is accidentally shot to death by a police officer.
It’s at this point of the film that you realize you’re in for something different than you had bargained for as the main focus of the movie has just died. Now, focus shifts entirely over to Alex as he heads out of the city to take refuge at his grandfather’s farmhouse. His grandfather lives alone, so it’s an ideal place to hide away and secretly mourn the loss of his true love. There is one person, however, that drops in every once in a while to visit the lonely old man. This person is housewife Susanne who lives with her husband just a little ways away. Its during a few of these visits that Alex and Susanne meet. Alex is standoffish at first and becomes even more so when he learns that Susanne’s husband is the cop that shot and killed Tamara. And so Alex begins stalking the couple, plotting his revenge, but as close as he tries to get he’s always missing the fact that this cop is absolutely torn apart by the shooting, so much so that his entire life begins sliding down the drain and his wife, Susanne, begins looking to others for physical affection. As fate would have it, she finds herself building an attraction for the cold and distant Alex.
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The entire cast here is superb, most notably Johannes Krisch as Alex and Ursula Strauss as Susanne, but the real star of “Revanche” is Gotz Spielmann’s storytelling talent. The two hours that it takes to completely unveil “Revanche” goes by in a flash as the story is always marching forward and quite often taking you to places you didn’t think you were going. It’s an engrossing journey all the way from the first to the very last frame of picture, ending on a perfect note. It may not be the happiest of stories told, but it’s satisfying all the way – a pure feast for cinephiles.
“Revanche” is Austria’s entry in the Oscar foreign language competition. Janus and Criterion have also picked up the film for distribution. So if “Revanche” doesn’t make it to an arthouse theater near you this spring, then you have the Criterion disc to look forward to. Don’t miss it.