REVENGE: A Dish Best Served Feminine
It may sound like exploitative torture porn, but Revenge introduces director Coralie Fargeat as a filmmaker worth your attention - taking problematic genre tropes and subverting them into a vital, exhilarating feminist film.
The beautiful and fun-loving Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) is swept off to a remote home in the desert with her married French boyfriend. All is going well until their plans for a romantic getaway are halted when his hunting buddies arrive a day early.
From here things don’t go well, and Coralie Fargeat’s feature debut takes this exploitation thriller head on with loads of riotous intensity and style.
Assault, Murder And Rebirth
She’s young and confident, shamelessly flirting, dancing and sipping champagne. Not only is her rich boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens) devouring her with his eyes, but so are his friends Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede).
From the beginning, we’re given Jen from the men’s point of view, with her skimpy outfits, lollipop trapped lips and giant star earrings. She’s an object to them, in some way or another. It’s begging the audience to make a snap judgment of this woman, much like the characters do. This misconception sets up the tale of Revenge, showing the three men’s cards right away. They desire her, want to use her, even dispose of her – but also, to their detriment, underestimate her.
When Alpha-male Richard is away, Stan approaches Jen, assuming her provocation the night before was for him. Despite her vehement refusals, he rapes her. Dimitri walks in on the disturbing exploit but does nothing to stop it. In fact, he blares the television to drown out her screams. When Richard returns and finds out what’s happened he offers to buy her off and send her away. Instead of accepting, Jen threatens to call his wife. His solution? Throw her off a cliff. His mistake? Assuming she’s dead.
While suffering a significant injury, Jen endures. With the help of some peyote, a knife and a beer can, she manages to char her wounds closed. While the film is called Revenge, and she undoubtedly wishes to rain her wrath down on these three, it’s also about survival. She didn’t walk in here prepared for a fight, but when you’re outnumbered in the barren desert, what choice do you have?
Not Just Another Dive Into The Familiar; A Heady And Potent Redux
French writer and director Coralie Fargeat really sinks her teeth into the story, achieving something rarely found within a rape/revenge film: new life. Prior to Stan raping Jen, we have a tense build-up, making the moments prior to the assault (which is mostly off-screen) achingly long but equally effective.
After Dimitri sees what’s happening (while it is still going on) there’s an up-close shot inside his mouth, slowly chomping on food. It’s visceral and disgusting, but it also works to highlight the disconnect of this enabler. We are given insight to the idea that this man can snack while something horrendous happens in the next room, completely unphased. It is an important part of this story, creating a deeper incision if you will. These injections into the film ensures that Revenge rises above the ranks.
We also get flashes of an apple, one that Jen took a bite out of when she was still full of youthful promise, and it is shown again through its varying stages of rot.
There is violence, as you can tell from the plot description, so there will obviously be blood (sometimes a gag-worthy amount). However, this doesn’t play out like torture porn, and Fargeat constructs some exhilarating action sequences.
Yes, at times you’ll have to suspend belief, but in comparison to so many others that came before it, there are some parts that are more realistic. The gore and deaths are handled with nauseating precision, giving no glam to the deplorable nature of Revenge, but still grinding out some abhorrence when needed. With intentional broad archetypes, and gender roles flipped on their heads, this is a daring, throttling thrill ride.
The saturated colors and poppy score have a stamp of retro B movies, and Revenge swaggers with haste, leaving no excess to spare. With excellent cinematography and scenery choices, on a backdrop of what appears to be a wasteland, things are considerably more difficult for Jen, but she’s determined. On screen her strength builds like the trepidation of the script, until the almost dizzying bloodied showdown. In one of the limited English spoken dialogues a sexist character ruminates “Women always have to put up a fight.”
Damn right they do.
Fargeat creates a harmonic binding film of female empowerment and bloody entertainment. With a woman behind the colorful lens, Revenge makes for a pinnacle of power. Grounded with an incredible performance by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, and a whip-smart script with just enough style, Revenge takes a delicious bite out of the genre.
This much needed addition works primarily because of Fargeat’s direction, ensuring she won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon. In theory it’s nothing you haven’t seen, but Revenge will make you feel like it is your first time.
What did you think? Do you agree that Revenge brought something new to the revenge genre? Let us know in the comments below!
Revenge was released in limited theaters on May 11 and is available on streaming services. For more information click here.
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