500 Days Of Film Reviews Revenge Starring Matilda Lutz
Three wealthy, married family men get together for their annual hunting game in a desert canyon. But this time, one of them has brought with him his young mistress, Jen (Matilda Lutz), a sexy lolita who quickly arouses the interest of the two others.
Things soon get dramatically out of hand.
Left for dead in the middle of a desert hell, the young woman comes back to life and their hunting game turns into a ruthless manhunt.
Is It Any Good?
For better or worse, cinema is full of rape revenge movies. Many feel unsettlingly exploitative. Most are filmed by men. Not so Revenge. The debut feature from writer/director, Coralie Fargeat, takes this problematic genre and subverts it to tell a story about the objectification of women - both on and off screen.
Featuring a powerful emotional and physical performance from Matilda Lutz, Revenge starts in familiar genre territory. Referencing movies of the 1970s (via its visual style and score), the film views Jen as a sexual object - there for the amusement of the men, to satisfy their desires.
While the camera is deliberately looking at Jen from the perspective of a “male gaze”, the power of her sexuality is also celebrated. However, unlike Jen, we sense the danger in her confidence - her naivety prevents her from realising that she is among predators.
By their nature, rape revenge movies have to feature rape. Once again, cinema has a deeply unsettling past in this regard. Fargeat owns this history and handles this extremely upsetting scene with sensitivity.
That is not to suggest that she shies away from the horror of the rape. Far from it. Instead, she highlights how the act is not about sex but about violence and aggression - about one man’s hateful, abhorrent and disgusting inadequacies.
What happens next is shocking, visceral and upsetting. The men are all too willing to sacrifice Jen to save themselves (or their reputations). To their abject frustration, Jen refuses to lay down and die.
However, even as she rises, phoenix-like from actual flames, a part of Jen has, in fact, died. She is not the same woman. From this point on, Fargeat’s film looks at her in a very different way - the camera that once objectified Jen now empowers her. Jen has been reborn and she will have her revenge.
The revenge, when it comes, is unflinchingly violent with many scenes of gore that are tough to watch. Fargeat’s film more than earns its 18 BBFC rating. Crucially, the injuries sustained tell their own story.
Jen’s wounds are what make her strong. In visually stunning and uplifting scenes, they transform her from a position of vulnerability into a powerful warrior. Conversely, the men’s injuries reveal their pathetic weaknesses in scenes that are full of surprising (darker than dark) comedy.
Of course, few could survive the injuries that Jen endures. However, Revenge is not interested in realism. Fargeat explains that her film is “staged in a non-realistic way. Pure genre which instills an atmosphere which makes you feel, a world which multiplies sensations, a total immersion into a sensory whirlwind caught between phantasmagoria and reality. As the story moves forward, the dialogues become more and more scarce until disappearing completely, simply replaced by sound, images and sensations.”
Music plays a key role in Revenge. The film’s impressive and urgent score takes us on a journey into Jen's nightmare. Fargeat believes that music is “the keystone of this hellish experience which grows more and more harsh and hostile. A repetitive and hypnotic score strongly tainted with electro which progressively puts one in a trance like those of John Carpenter, Etienne Jaumet or Thomas Banglater”.
The themes that Fargeat explores while telling Jen’s story (particularly regarding how women are represented in cinema) may not be subtle but they are nonetheless powerful. Fargeat sees Revenge as her “vision of a female director on the genre” that “nurtured and built my life as a film buff and then as a filmmaker”.
Sadly, this perspective is also incredibly rare - a fact that makes Revenge a film to treasure. I, for one, cannot wait to see the next cinematic embodiment of Fargeat’s impressive vision.
Fargeat states that her film references for Revenge span from Sailor and Lula to Drive, Under The Skin and the films of David Cronenberg.
Have you seen Revenge?
If you have, what did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments section below or via Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm.