Revenge (2017)

Director: Coralie Fargeat
Writer: Coralie Fargeat
Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède, Jean-Louis Tribes
Part of: /slash 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 4.5.2018

Content Note: Rape

Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) has been dating the rich, older, married Richard (Kevin Janssens) for a while. Now they managed to get a weekend away in the desert where Richard has a house he usually uses to hunt with his friends Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède). The two friends are supposed to come the next day, after Jen has left, but they arrive earlier than anticipated. Being alone with the three men soon turns into an absolute nightmare for Jen – and then for the men.

Revenge was the film I looked forward to the most at the /slash 1/2. Unfortunately, it was also the film that disappointed me the most. It has many strengths, but in the end, I was so annoyed by it that it really overshadowed everything.

Rape revenge films are so common, they are a genre in themselves. Often they are made about women by men who seem more interested in the rape than the revenge and end up not empowering the survivor, but rather objectifying them all over again. That’s a known problem. So, it is exciting when a woman tackles the genre who seems aware of the problems in it and wants to do it differently. And in many ways, Fargeat succeeds in this regard.

The set-up is really strong and absolutely creepy. Jen’s discomfort that sets in pretty much immediately when it’s not just her and Richard anymore, that she tries to play off but can’t really shake; Stan’s constant crossing of lines and leering after her; Richard’s failure to help that Jen’s boundaries are respected – it’s a situation that will feel very familiar to many women and people of other genders that aren’t cis male. That everything leads to Stan raping Jen seems as inevitable as it is unbearable.

Up until that point, the film was fantastic. And even past that point, I was absolutely with it – until the scene in the cave which was both a highlight in its viscerality that I seemed to feel with every fiber of my body and a turning point where the entire film spiraled out of control for me. And it all starts with that fucking eagle that Jen (unwittingly) burns on her body. And I’m almost more annoyed at myself for caring so much about it, because it’s not actually that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but holy fucking shit, I do care. I can totally unscientifically explain why a beer can with a printed on eagle would leave a burn in the shape of said eagle (mumble mumble the paint obviously burns hotter than the rest of the can mumble mumble), but why that eagle and the letters around it wouldn’t be mirrored? That just runs counter every single bit of logic and common sense and physics and I couldn’t stand it.

Still, I probably could have looked past it if that had been the only bad narrative choice in the second half of the film. But it isn’t. There’s the opportunity not taken when Jen could easily shoot Stan, but doesn’t for whatever reason. There’s the merry-go-round showdown with Richard that’s just ridiculous. And so many smaller bits inbetween that really got on my nerves, made the film feel much longer than it was and ultimately kept me from celebrating Jen’s fight and strength and revenge and survival. That annoyance overshadowed the great start of the film and left me disappointed with the film as a whole.

Summarizing: I wish I had liked it better than I did.

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