AF French Film Festival: Revenge
Sometimes for a good film, it feels like we just have to suffer through some brutal scenes that really require some teeth-gritting. Directed by Coralie Fargeat, Revenge (2017) puts us through our paces, asking us to endure a brutal rape and attempted murder in exchange for the retribution of seeing the transgressors suffer at the hands of a woman who will not have her dignity taken from her.
Matila Lutz delivers a ruthless performance as Jen; an American socialite having an affair with her neighbour. Together, they are holidaying at his remote home in the desert, only reachable by helicopter. When his two sleazy hunting buddies arrive a week early for their next hunting trip, things turn sinister and Jen is raped and left for dead. But what they didn’t count on was her survival, as she returns to track them down for vengeance.
Revenge succeeds completely in its ability to unsettle. The beautiful mise-en-scene and colour-pop cinematography sit in powerful juxtaposition from the subject matter at hand. I don’t know if it’s the desolate sand, the colour palette of yellow and blue, or the powerful female protagonist up against a toxic patriarchy but this one gave me some serious Mad Max Fury Roadvibes. Even after Jen is raped and tumbles down to, what appears to be, her death, we are presented with a number of gory and visceral scenes that really it make it a harsh viewing experience.
Revenge is a visual delight but sometimes it can be difficult not to cover your eyes.
To the credit of the male performers, their appearances on screen make for a very uncomfortable and uneasy viewing. Fargeat uses the camera to show their characters at their most repugnant: Dimitri chewing a chocolate bar with his mouth wide open in indifferent reaction to Stan raping Jen, Stan drowning a spider in his piss, and being likened to a lizard via intermingled shots between their faces and that of a thirsty reptilian. Possibly most discomforting of all, considering they all occur before Jen’s quest for revenge begins, are the shots of all three men staring at her body for just a little too long.
The violence of these male characters appears inescapable, and they show no mercy for her suffering. They are seemingly built to hunt (ironically tracking her down as a sort of clean up mission whilst they are already out on their hunting trip), to rape, to be violent, and to rationalise murdering an innocent woman who won’t accept the way they treated her, because as Richard states in the final scene, “women always have to fight back”. Unfortunately for them, this makes seeing the cruel irony of their payback all the more satiating as we get to see their power as men taken, used, and tossed away by the resourceful and resilient female protagonist.
The audience is offered up the female body on a platter, and Revenge uses that offering to crush the male gaze to pieces.
Despite the fact that a number of plot holes remain unresolved at the conclusion – seriously, how did Jen manage to close up both an entry and an exit wound all in one go? - Revenge is powerful piece of rape revenge cinema that doesn’t actually exploit its main character. Though you may feel the need to avert your eyes to escape from some of the blood and gore this is a worthwhile watch from a fantastic female director. A little grindhouse never hurt anyone… well anyone off the screen at least.
Revenge is showing at Australian cinemas as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival between the 6th of March and the 10th of April. For more information on the festival and session times, click here .