Movie Review of Revanche (2008) : 2009 Oscar Nominee


Language - German
Genre - Thriller, Drama
Release - 2008

Revanche is 2009 Oscar nominee from Austria in the best Foreign Film category. Starting off as a erotic and psychological thriller, it evolves into a richly grained study of characters driven and motivated by love, desire, guilt, faith and revenge. Striking an instant chord with the connoisseurs of art-house style cinema, the movie received widespread critical acclaim. Written and directed by Götz Spielmann, Revanche stars Johannes Krisch as Alex, a thuggish soft-hearted second-in-command at a small brothel Cinderella who's madly in love with a Ukrainian prostitute Tamara (Irina Potapenko). Desperately yierning for a new start to their lives, Alex plans to rob a bank to fund their new beginning. 

Meanwhile, in the countryside where Alex's old grandfather lives alone in a farm, there's a childless couple of Robert (Andreas Lust) and Susanne (Ursula Strauss), a policeman and his wife. As Alex sets his plan of bank-robbery in action, he is accompanied by Tamara (at her insistence). But things go terribly wrong as Alex and Tamara run into Robert. 

A violent tragedy sends the characters into downward spirals of guilt on one hand, and a overwhelming desire for revenge on the other. As Alex decides to lay low at the quiet countryside with his grandfather, Alex and Roberts fate are to get inter-twined once again, igniting Alex's desire for vengeance, seemingly the sole-purpose of his existence. Robert on the other hand battling with demons of his own.

As the movie moves from the grimy and sinister city settings to the aesthetic countryside, so does the narrative, but never letting go of the intrigue. Spielmann expertly captures the tranquility of the countryside with long shots and still camera work. But at the same time, there are extended takes of Alex chopping away wood or feeding them to the automatic chopper, hinting at the rage consuming him. Adding to the intrigue is Susanne, the devout wife of Robert, desperate for a child and her run-ins with Alex as she visits his grandfather for the trips to the church, and the secret arrangement between them. Spielmann works like a painter with long and masterful strokes. Revanche may not have the flourish of a mainstream commercial thriller, but creates richly layered character-takes, that makes the movie an intensely rewarding experience.