In early July I jumped on the Criterion Collection’s DVD sale at Barnes & Noble, and picked up an Austrian film called “REVANCHE” ( 2008 ). You can find it on Amazon. Directed by Götz Spielmann in a very slow and deliberate way, the film features a European cast including: Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Andreas Lust, Ursula Strauss and Hannes Thanheiser. How am I going to tell you about this? I really don’t want to reveal any spoilers because I want the movie to unfold for you as it gloriously did for me. So, I’m asking you to trust me if you don’t understand something I’ve written in the effort not to reveal a specific plot point. Trust me when I tell you it’s a good movie. Trust me when I tell you it will make you think. Deal? Swell. This movie has stayed with me for days now. It starts out as one thing and turns into something else. As you might glean from the title, the story is about revenge.
Alex and Tamara are lovers. He is a bouncer in a club of prostitution and she is one of the workers. She is in bad straits when her boss Konecny ( Hanno Pöschl ) takes a special interest in her and wants to upgrade her to high class call girl outside of the brothel; not something she’s really aspiring to.
Alex wants to get them both out of this sordid situation of exploitation. His idea…to rob a bank. Sounds easy, right? Just take the money and run. But when he does the bank job, he comes upon policeman, Robert ( Andreas Lust ) in the midst of his getaway. The best laid plans of mice and men…
Turn of events occur that bring these two men together and herein lies the crux of the story. These men become inter-connected in ways known and unknown to each of them. Director/writer Spielmann takes the time to create and explore a mirror image of the lives of these two men connected by an event that affects each in very emotional ways.
You know I love my Hollywood films ( with every fiber of my being and heart and soul ). If I were re-casting this for the 40’s I might put Gregory Peck as the cop, Robert Ryan as the bouncer, Eleanor Parker as the understanding wife and maybe maybe Claire Trevor as the prostitute…no, someone sweeter who’s gone astray. Maybe Parker as the prostitute and Dorothy McGuire as The Wife. Ahhh…Hollywood – I like their structure. There is a certain beat and rhythm to Hollywood movies; a certain right-ness and just-ness and pat-ness. Maybe even << GULP! >> Predictability? ACK! I’ve gone and done it now…betrayed everything I hold Holy, but sometimes our movies are predictable. Now there were one or two things I did see coming ( Yay…Me! ) But in general, as I watched “Revanche” I kept nodding my head as the plot unfolded saying “Ooh, this is different.” “Oh that’s interesting.” ( Yeah, a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” ). The sensibility feels different in European films as opposed to American ones.
In “Revanche” the film’s language is different; no, not what was spoken ( that’s a given ), but what I saw, how it’s revealed. Sometimes American films don’t leave you a minute’s peace to digest…absorb what’s happening. “Revanche” is not afraid of silence…not afraid of moments unconnected to driving the plot forward, but moments just as important. I like how the director chooses to reveal things. We first see Alex with his back to us in his little room and when the doorbell rings, he does a back flip over his messy bed. What’s going on? We want to know that already…but hold on. Just wait. Coincidental incidences make sense and are surprising if you just wait. Situations are introduced that we won’t fully understand, until later in the film. Slow your roll – don’t be impatient – all will be answered.
Or not. And you’d better be okay with that.
The actors are very good in quiet small ways and I enjoyed their characters very much:
Tamara – ( Irina Potapenko ) – The Prostitute. A sad girl, a sweet girl, a trapped girl in the environ- ment of the brothel. But she has found love. Now she needs to escape.
Alex – ( Johannes Krisch ) – Rough and ready; a guy of the streets but is open to loving Tamara. His grief is strong and almost can’t be expressed in an open way because he’s on the run.
Robert – ( Andreas Lust ) – The policeman. He can’t live well with his mistake. He cannot forgive himself. Not open. Looks like he doesn’t really communicate with his wife about his feelings about the job…or perhaps, about anything. A solitary man.
Susanne – ( Ursula Strauss ) – Reaches out to her husband to no avail. She’s kept on the outside by him. She seeks to connect outside her marriage.
Grandfather Hausner – ( Hannes Thanheiser ) – We leave the urban drama behind of cops, cons and prostitutes when we’re with him. He’s a widow and alone on a farm. He’s brought out of his shell by Susanne enough to play the accordian. No, he doesn’t have much to do, and that’s okay. He’s a link to a simpler way to live. He’s a place we can sit and smell the roses. He has a last gasp at getting in touch with himself again ( via his accordion ). What does this have to do with anything? Nothing, in the strictest sense of the plot. And that works. He just is.
“Revanche” works for me, on an epic scale. Guilt, redemption, renewal. What can you blame on other people? What can you take responsibility for? What we do ripples throughout peoples’ lives. I like it when movies show pieces of the puzzle that make me wonder HOW they fit, and then as I watch, I see how they slowly reveal themselves. We’re looking at five characters…isolated, in their own way, by their situations – a job they can’t
fully share and discuss, a miscarriage they’re trying to deal with, and again, what does one do when they find out THEY are responsible. The realization of looking in the mirror and seeing one’s self as responsible. You see this card below and you think it is just movie hype. Nope. This is the type of screenplay I would like to have written and direct.. It’s about BIG ideas big things, but the film does them in a small way. I know the director and actors in “Revanche” have moved on to other projects, characterizations…ideas since this movie is seven years old. But “Revanche” still resonates and marinates within me days and days and days later. It’s hard for me to talk to you about this movie without revealing spoilers. You just have to trust me when I tell you to see this film. Deal? Swell.
( H O M E )