Review: Revanche

Revanche is a brooding character study of one man's loss and the revenge he contemplates for it. You don't want to know too much about this movie before seeing it. It's a chameleon that will pleasantly surprise you with some unpredictable moments. Though it's Austrian with English subtitles, so much of the communication is visual you won't do as much reading as you might think.

Rated: 4 / 5

Revanche is the story of Alex, an ex-con working in a brothel. Alex has found love and has a less than legal plan for improving the couple's financial situation. When he executes his plan he intertwines his live with that of his grandfather and his grandfather's next door neighbour, who happens to be a cop.

I'm easily bored in a movie, so I was delighted that even though Revanche took its time telling the story I was engaged throughout the movie. Alex, played by Johannes Krisch, doesn't do much talking. Except when he's with his lover, he's dour and closed. His actions are the only gateway into his feelings and you need to pay attention to the non-verbal. I was totally immersed as I watched, with an economy of words, the relationship between Alex and his grandfather grow and change, and I wondered about the revenge Alex contemplated as he buried his torment in work. Writer/directory Götz Spielmann not only expertly paces the story so it's always interesting, he well matches the lighting and the visuals to the mood.

There are some interesting coincidences in the plot. While some of them can be explained by the small town setting, some of them are strictly storyteller's artifice. In many films I've found this annoying, but not here. It added a delicious irony to aspects of the plotline as well as a deeper significance to some of the scenes. Though the movie is about Alex dealing with consequences it also explores how our actions impact others, and using the coincidences it does so in a concise way.

Revanche has won numerous awards and was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Well deserved. The intertwined plot and moral ambiguity gives Revanche an almost but not quite fable-like quality in the best tradition of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Götz Spielmann's quiet and moody drama with a spice of action is a wonderful, real-world contemplation of dealing with anger and guilt when you do something you can't take back.

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