Release Date: May 1 (New York)
Director/Writer: Götz Spielmann
Cinematographer: Martin Gschlacht
Starring: Johannes Krisch, Ursula Strauss, Irina Potapenko
Studio/Run Time: Janus Films, 121 mins.
Living on the fringes of society, Alex (Johannes Kirsch) and Tamara (Irina Potapenko) are both working in an Austrian brothel. Tamara’s boss wants to transition her into working for wealthy clients in hotels instead of the streets, and when she resists, Alex learns that a client who beat her was actually hired by their boss for her lack of cooperation. He attempts to take her away, but during a bank heist he’s pulling to support her Tamara is shot and killed by a police officer who coincidentally turns out to be neighbors with his grandfather, whose house he’s hiding out in.
These unlikely circumstances serve to illustrate Revanche’s thoughts on interconnected relationships and morality. Is the officer truly to blame for shooting Tamara when he meant to hit the couple’s tires, or is it Alex’s fault for bringing her along in the first place? Both men share the guilt of her death, and Revanche’s slow burn allows them both to fester in thoughts of that day and watch how it changes their lives and feelings about the world. The word "revanche" means "revenge," and what each character deserves is central to the film, with no easy answers in sight.
Revanche looks beautiful and contains nuanced performances that really raise the material, which is necessary because the story itself isn’t actually that captivating—at least not the way it’s told. It has maybe an eighth as many key events as a Hollywood film, and not quite enough meaning and depth to always maintain tension at its glacial speed. This is an obvious choice of writer/director Götz Spielmann, a way of putting twisty crime dramas into a different context, but it’s not entirely successful and feels more than a tad pretentious.
Because of this, Revanche doesn’t quite satisfy the needs of the genre, but its world of internal struggles is still effective, and at times, arresting. The film’s contrived nature also lets it down, where connections occur more because Spielmann needed them for the plot than from a sense of reality. Conversely, though, as unlikely as its situations seem the quality of its cast and crew make things still feel natural. There are periods of time when Revanche’s audience could be forgiven for falling asleep, but at other moments it captures harrowing feelings of guilt, betrayal and anger better than nearly anything else out there.
Watch the Revanche trailer: