Revenge is the first full length film directed by Coralie Fargeat and was lauded on its release a few months before ‘#Metoo’ kicked off. Starring Matilda Lutz as Jen, Kevin Janssens as Richard her married lover, and Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède as Richard friends and hunting buddies Stan and Dimitri.
Revenge is a rape revenge movie, glowingly filmed and ripe with symbolism, candy colours, perfect bodies, mirrored sunglasses and a helicopter, and that is just the first five minutes.
Now I could write an essay about this film, about rape/revenge films, about (Mulvey’s) the male gaze. Feminism, #Metoo, tropes in film, and I’m sure a million film study essays will be written about this film, so instead, let’s just look at the film, and ‘linger’ on the content.
Richard is Jen’s neighbour, he’s married and has taken her away for the weekend to an amazing villa (with pool) in what appears to be a desert in the middle of nowhere. They fuck, eat, swim, and he omits to tell her his mates will be turning up at some point to hunt.
The friends arrive, a fat slob, and a twitchy creep.
During that evening Jen dances around the pool scantily clad (she was asking for it) and provocatively dances with Stan (she really was asking for it).
The next morning while Richard is away, Stan tries to get Jen to have sex with him, claiming she had come on to him the night before. When she refuses, he rapes her. Dimitri could save her, he doesn’t. Interestingly we only hear the rape, which is in itself powerful as Jen’s screams belie the horror.
When Richard returns and hears about what happened, he is eager to get rid of Jen. He doesn’t care about her, he was using her, and she is nothing more than a proverbial cum receptacle.
Jen threatens to tell Richard’s wife, escapes, is chased and pushed of a cliff where she lands on a branch piercing her abdomen, and appears to be dead.
Here the rape/revenge begins.
The burning of the sacrificial tree she hangs on like Prometheus, chasing through desert plains, her remarkable recovery (she must have lost every drop of blood from her injury), gory murder, slip sliding on blood, peyote induced pain relief. Oh and let us not forget the branding/cauterising of her wounds with an adapted beer can, leaving the imprint of a phoenix across her like a warrior tattoo.
It is relentless, it looks beautiful and … I’ve seen it all before.
Jen begins as a Lolita-ish nubile nymph, wide-eyed and small hipped; she even has the Sue Lyon sunglasses and sucks on a lollypop. She is childlike, perfect, and of course we see her through the male’s eye. Her bottom perfectly curved in her scanty clothes. She is young and creamy, she is a slut, she is a whore to be used and abused, and she wants it.
We don’t really know the ‘real’ Jen but rather see how she is solely through the males gaze. And gaze they do, lingering on her body, she is the epitome of a perfect creation of woman. But hold on a min, isn’t that how she really is? Isn’t she really Lolita-like? Now I may sound like I’m slut shaming here, and that she’s an innocent just trying to please her boyfriend, but Mmm I don’t think the majority of women would grind up against a man she didn’t know a few hours after first meeting him. So of course we are being manipulated by the director and of course, if this being the male gaze is any of it true? Is this film based on their gaze and nothing else?
Symbolism is overt; apples are bitten then rot as rape happens, Phoenix branded into flesh, and the irrepressible spirit of a woman rising to beat her misogynistic oppressor.
The ending follows all the various mirrors of the film, top and tail with the naked again Richard and Jen literally sliding around the living room of the house in blood to catch then kill each other is unfortunately, risible, and I do admit to sighing at it.
So this could very well be seen as a triumph of feminist filmmaking, while I found it very one dimensional. The three men were evil, sociopathic, women hating murderers, while Jen, despite being a siren found inner strength to vanquish them and… phew. Bit boring for me I’m afraid. The Virgin Spring, Irreversible, I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on the Left, Straw Dogs, Lady Snowblood, The Accused, Savage Streets, why even Dirty Harry dipped his toe in with Sudden impact. It’s all been done before.
- Out for Blood: a new interview with Director Coralie Fargeat and Actor Matilda Lutz
- The Coward: a new interview with Actor Guillaume Bouchede
- Fairy Tale Violence: a new interview with Cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert
- Death Notes: a new interview with Composer Robin Court (Rob)
- New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, Author and Editor of Diabolique
Limited Edition Contents
- Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Adam Stothard
- Poster with new artwork
- Soft cover book with new writing by Mary Beth McAndrews and Elena Lazic
Revenge is released on 11th May 2020.
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Second Sight Films.
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