Revanche (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Revanche (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Director Götz Spielmann's Revanche, Austria's 2009 Academy Awards selection for foreign film, is quite a unique movie for its sensitive, empathetic portrayal of hard-boiled activity. Its gorgeously austere cinematography not only serves this sad story well but also makes the viewing experience more touching than one would expect from such a bleak narrative. Revanche, which means in German both "revenge" and "second chance," focuses on swarthy ex-con Alex (Johannes Krisch) and his girlfriend, Ukrainian prostitute Tamara (Irina Potapenko), a tender couple who are as naive as they are streetwise. Scenes set in the Viennese brothel in which they are both employed by a sleazy boss, Konecny (Hanno Pöschl), depict a couple stranded in financial ruin and dreaming of an exit plan. Meanwhile, a second story unfolds featuring Alex's aging grandfather, Hausner (Johannes Thanheiser), and his neighbors in their small village--Robert (Andreas Lust), the local policeman, and his wife, Susanne (Ursula Strauss). When Alex and Tamara's plan goes awry, the two couples' lives intersect in drastic ways. Not until their joint story becomes more grossly intertwined do they discover how much they all have in common. Revanche is a story about a struggle to repress vengeance and about how to redeem oneself after accidents occur. The acting in this film is astoundingly real, so the guilt that each character feels is crystal clear to the viewer. Crime, here, is so realistically complex that by the end it hardly seems like a crime has been committed at all. Moreover, as each character digs deeper into their sources of loss, one understands the humanity of such dire circumstance and learns about the overlap between urban chaos and the solace of nature via Austrian farm life. The second disc on this Criterion release contains excellent interviews with this insightful, intuitive director as well as his beautifully scenic student short film, "Foreign Land," about a boy in the Tyrolean Alps who learns how to manage his family farm. --Trinie Dalton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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He decides to rob a local bank. It's in a quiet little town and he's figured out a good escape route. In his mind, nothing can go wrong. Tamara has a bad feeling about it and insists on coming along. Rather predictably, something does go wrong.
After a policeman, Robert (Lust), intervenes, Alex is forced to flee to the countryside and stay with his grandfather on a farm. He was wearing a mask during the robbery, so nobody knows that he was responsible. He hides out and works out his fear and anger by chopping wood for his grandfather's fire.
A neighbor, Susanne (Strauss), occasionally stops by to check on his grandfather. She's friendly, but Alex wants to avoid her as much as possible. We later discover that she's the wife of the police officer who tried to foil the robbery.
Alex, Robert and Susanne all have difficult problems to face. Alex wants to avoid being caught for his crime and faces another dilemma that I won't mention; Robert is struggling with the way he performed when he tried to stop the robbery, while Susanne's deepest wish can't be fulfilled by her husband.
It's a fascinating story, but I am reluctant to give away any more details. All I will say is that the climax offers a number of interesting solutions to each of the problems. The needs of the individuals are satisfied in unexpected ways that aren't always ethical or legal, but it's not hard to imagine acting in the same way if you were placed in any of their situations.Read more ›
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Alex and Tamara are in love. Unfortunately, there's little chance their love can work out. He's an ex-con working as a bouncer at the brothel where she turns tricks for a cruel and jealous pimp, who's not about to let her go and who would kill Alex if he found out. Hoping to make enough money to turn things around, Alex plots a fail-safe bank robbery, in which he thinks no one could possibly get hurt. He doesn't even bring a loaded gun. Things don't work out as he planned, however, and Alex has to take refuge at his grandfather's farm out in the country, where events take a truly unexpected turn.
The film opens with a powerful image that suggests the feel of the film that follows. A beautiful rippling reflection of trees in a pond at dawn (dusk?) is given an ominous sense by the lightly disturbing tones that hum softly in the background. Suddenly and loudly, the eerie calm is disrupted by a heavy object that is thrown into the water. The images of a tranquil forest, reflected in the trees, are interrupted violently by the splash and subsequent waves, until they gradually return to a semblance of their former look. Likewise, the uneasy peace of a small town is interrupted by the bank robbery, and the uneasy marriage of a childless young couple is further unsettled by the husband's tragic chance encounter with the criminals. It's hard to know in advance whether the easygoing peace will return.
It's a story that could have been played for drama and action and rising intensity and pace, but is allowed here to be above all about character, with a tension that builds naturally and without the need for artificial plotting or manipulative music. The acting throughout is strong, with special mention deserved by Johannes Fritsch, for what managed to be a both very physical and highly contemplative and reserved performance as Alex, but even the minor parts were perfectly casted and played extremely well. Gotz Spielmann brings a patient and masterful direction to this subtle and unique and mature film about love and longing and revenge and redemption. Images are carefully composed and beautifully lensed, and the delicate pacing of the editing is matched by a subtle use of music and a darkly comic undercurrent to the tragedy. Some viewers may want to know in advance that certain scenes in the film reflect a European sensibility about the body (i.e. there is abundant nudity and some sex). Still, it's all tastefully done and in the service of the story and of a remarkable film that is well worth watching.
The Criterion release will include:
-a new, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Götz Spielmann (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-a new video interview with Spielmann
-The Making of "Revanche," a half-hour documentary shot on the film's set
-"Foreign Land," Spielmann's award-winning student short film, with an introduction by the director
-the U.S. theatrical trailer
-a new and improved English subtitle translation
-and, an essay by critic Michael Wood
In a way, this one film, is two very different parts in both mood and tone. However, it is in fact, one linear storyline, that is separated by an event that occurs midway through the movie. And by the time, it's done, seemingly different as the two components of the film may be, the whole is quite impressive and unique.
While everyone likes (and awards) the flashy performances, the ones I always find most satisfying are the restrained, carefully measured ones. The lead actor here is singular in the sense that he is cold, hard, detached, and understated--as he should be--but he also some very intense emotional moments which are compounded upon impact by the fact that the viewer has become so accustomed to his usual demeanor.
Another unique component to this brilliant work, is that it has almost no music whatsoever. No score, only a few isolated scenes with music as a necessary component. It's all about the quiet moments, the words spoken, and the ambient nature sounds that sound rich, from even the most basic tv speakers.
"Revanche" has some rather bold narrative and filmic approaches to its relatively traditional minimalism, observationism, and very otherwise typically European film sensibility. It's a welcome fit to the Criterion Collection, and it would be a welcome addition to any cinemaphile's library.
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