Revenge: A violent rebirth
by Fabien Lemercier
- Get ready for extreme feminism, thrills, savagery and haemoglobin in Coralie Fargeat's irresistible hyper-stylised debut feature
"The desert is sublime, but it has no mercy on the reckless." Already sold by Charades in a number of regions and causing a buzz at festivals since its premiere at Toronto – including a mise-en-scene award at Sitges – Revenge [+see also:
interview: Coralie Fargeat
film profile] by Coralie Fargeat continued its explosive journey at Sundance, in the Midnight section, just before it’s due to be released in cinemas (by Rezo Movies on 7 February in France). It must be said that the director's very powerful debut feature is totally extraordinary in its radical revisitation of the archetypes of genre cinema, following the ultra-violent metamorphosis of a bimbo who becomes a ruthless Amazon woman, with a very particular visual and audio style that could be described as pop-rock. Constantly pushing the boundaries, Revenge literally takes hold of the audience and leads them into a very colourful crescendo of thrills, returning to an almost primal state, which will discourage sensitive souls, but delight punchy-film lovers, where the omnipresent physical severity offers the audience a somewhat "humorous" degree of detachment.
A helicopter charges towards the camera in the majestic desert. The landscape is reflected in a man’s sunglasses. We spot a woman in the background, a blonde woman in a very short dress with a lollipop in her mouth. Having spent two lazy days in a luxurious villa with a swimming pool with her lover, Richard (the Belgian Kevin Janssens), a married man, provocative Jennifer (the Italian Matilda Lutz) is far from imagining the maelstrom of madness that is soon to be triggered by the surprise arrival (a day early) of Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède), two friends, and Richard's hunting partners. An object of desire, she is raped by Stan, refusing the corrupting arrangements suggested by Richard and, in a moment of panic, threatening to reveal his infidelity to his wife. She tries to escape, before being pushed from the top of a cliff, skewered on a tree branch and left for dead. But when the male trio returns to get rid of her body, they discover that the young woman has survived, finding incredible resources to escape. A hunt then ensues, where the hunters slowly become the hunted in a hallucinatory deadly escalation that unfolds between sand and rock.
Wholly embracing its excesses (including a few gorey scenes), Revenge develops very effectively thanks to a screenplay written by the director, who mixes idle suspense with bursts of violence. Trails of blood become maze-like traps, ambushes backfire on their instigators, and the aridity of the landscape forces the characters to rely on their basic survival instincts. All packaged neatly in a dazzling formal envelope, where audaciousness is permitted (photo of Robrecht Heyvaert pushing on the colours, syncopated editing, etc.) and the soundtrack and music composed by Rob play a decisive role. Beneath its bubbling surface, the film plays cruelly with codes and caricatures. Revenge is also an eminently feminist film, especially for male sexual predators in modern times. But here in the desert, they pay in blood.
(Translated from French)
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