Revanche (2008, Götz Spielmann)

Impressive revenge flick, building slowly to an excellent conclusion. Mostly static camera, no music at all, but these things don’t call attention to themselves like they do in, say, In Vanda’s Room, because of the propulsive drama.

Alex, a mustache ‘n sideburns-wearing ex-con who’s not as tough as he acts (according to his boss, who runs a brothel) has a secret love affair with Ukranian prostitute Tamara. Things are heating up, both of them are in debt and her boss is trying to move her to an apartment to cater to politicians and others who consider themselves too important to visit a brothel. When the boss hires a guy to beat up Tamara it’s the last straw, and Alex scoops her up to leave town, stopping in the small town where his grandfather lives to rob a bank he’d “staked out” (located an alley as an escape route, not very careful planning). But a cop notices the car and asks questions, then shoots as Alex drives away, killing Tamara.

Thus begins the revenge portion. The cop, Robert, is depressed over the death and only gets worse as he gets suspended from work while they investigate the shooting. They’ve got no leads, so Alex is safe, stays in town chopping wood for his grandfather and plotting how to kill Robert, eventually having an affair with the cop’s wife and deciding not to kill the guy after all. Oh and the wife has been trying to get pregnant but can’t manage with Robert, so guess what happens. Kinda sounds cheesy when you write it down, but I liked it an awful lot.

Accordian lover Hauser with Robert’s wife Susi:

A rarely moving camera, and zero music. The brothel meister was in Fassbinder’s Querelle, otherwise cast and crew are unknown to me. The combination of the young cop and the lead guy’s relationship with his decrepit father reminded me in flashes of Hunger, and the backlit wood-chopping scenes recalled flashbacks in Cache.

Criterion scares up comparisons to Kieslowski, Antonioni and Bergman in reviews.

A. White:

Although Revanche is Spielmann’s first film to be released in the United States, it is actually his fifth overall, so his style and tone come to us fully developed. He began his career as a playwright, yet Revanche is thoroughly cinematic in story, look, and pace.

Spielmann’s arrival on the American film scene is exciting for the way Revanche opposes the contemporary trend toward dark pessimism with a vision that contemplates light and, conditionally, belief. At one point, a repentant character is asked, “What would your God say?” and she answers, “He’d understand.”

White quotes the director: “Loneliness is probably an inextricable part of our modern lives, and yet I consider it an illusion. We always think of ourselves as being separate from the world, and in this way we deceive ourselves. This separation is just an invention of our imagination; in many ways, we are constantly and directly interwoven in a larger whole. Loneliness is an attribute of our limited awareness, not of life itself.”