Revanche is an Austrian film directed by Gotz Spielmann. It was originally released in 2008 and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards. It was later released on Blu-Ray, apart of the Criterion Collection, on February 16th, 2010, as spine #502. This is the only Speilmann film on the collection (his short Foreign Land is in the supplements section of this release), and this is the first of his films to be released in the United States.
Alex (Johannes Krisch) begins working at a brothel after getting out of prison. He sparks a relationship with a prostitute named Tamara (Irina Potapenko) and decides to run away with her. After robbing a bank to make some quick cash, a series of events bring on an improbable friendship.
Revanche is an existential film that exists to deconstruct relationships, and show one human’s actions affect another’s life. All the characters are victims of circumstance and forded together to Speilman’s ambition. This film begins with narrative simplicity, before careening into a head on collision with fate.
Revanche is a film of revenge, of an unforgiving natural and social world, and of resonant consequence for actions. These intentions are articulated from the offset. Every single person is driven by loss, working to enact revenge on someone or something. And, their reasoning is driven by how the things they wanted or cared about was taken away from them: Alex – his love(s), Robert (Andrea’s Lust) – his personal innocence, Susanne (Ursula Strauss) – her connection to god and ability to procreate.
In a basic reading, Alex is portrayed as the main protagonist. His love is taken by the hand of another and he is struggling with carrying out his revenge. But, his character is not the most sadistic in nature, as Susanne embodies the epitome of low life. She is intent on having a child and her husband, Andreas, has fertility problems. Her inept idea to fix this problem is one of the most cynical schemes ever devised.
This film offers some of the most tense climactic moments you could ever experience, delivered through emotional dialogue. The final exchange between Alex and Susanne conveys an immeasurable display of human remorse.
Every scene, every character, and every action enhances the film’s complexity. This is most evident when Alex is splitting the wood in his grandfather’s shed. It symbolic of how his every relationship is being “split,” as nearly every spoken line is captured fr a different camera angle shows this action.
Criterion had the right idea when putting together the supplements for this release. There is an essay by everyone’s favorite critic Armond White, which explores the film’s “dark pessimism”. Then we are treated to two very awesome short films; Gotz Speielmann’s Foreign Land (a beautifully shot film), which he made as a student and a half hour on-set documentary about the making of the film called The Making of “Revanche.” We are also given a new high-definition digital transfer (approved by Gotz), a US release theatrical trailer, a video interview with Gotz Spielmann, and the subtitles were redone for increased accuracy.
Revanche is a well-crafted film that explores the depths of human emotion and circumstance, while touching on spirituality. It is impeccably with the help of cinematographer Marin Gschlacht and understood by Spielmann’s screenplay. The supplements offer insight into to Gotz Spielmann with a look at how he got his start. Go out and purchase this film’s Criterion release.
Film Grade: A
Criterion Grade: A