Fe­male power gets Re­venge

The Georgia Straight - - Movies - > BY ADRIAN MACK

Open­ing Fri­day (May 11), Re­venge is as lean as they come, pit­ting a sin­gle wo­man against the three men who left her for dead, im­paled on a tree at the bot­tom of a desert canyon. It’s also an ex­er­cise in high style, shot in hot ochre and cool blue, with its pro­tag­o­nist stalk­ing her prey like an aveng­ing im­mor­tal in bikini un­der­wear, strip­ping the power from these men bit by gory bit. (And allegedly send­ing one pa­tron into a faint when the film went megabuzz at TIFF’S Mid­night Mad­ness screen­ing last year.)

Talk­ing to the Straight from Los An­ge­les, French film­maker Co­ralie Fargeat name-checks Kill Bill, Mad Max, and Duel as movies that worked the ar­che­typal turf she was aim­ing for. “I thought that the desert would be a per­fect metaphor and mir­ror for what’s go­ing on in the minds of the char­ac­ters,” she says. “They’re be­com­ing more and more wild, they are more and more alone, far from civ­i­liza­tion, far from hu­man­ity, and con­nect­ing with a more vis­ceral part of them­selves. So the land­scape could re­ally re­flect the soul of the movie.”

The setup here is that Jen (Matilda Lutz) has been shipped to a re­mote com­pound as the mis­tress of ul­tra­wealthy lib­er­tine Richard (Kevin Janssens). When his two hunt­ing bud­dies show up for their an­nual desert killfest, it’s as­sumed she’s there for the tak­ing, and things get nasty. It gives noth­ing away to men­tion that one of these men is, rather po­tently, com­pletely nude and leak­ing gal­lons of blood by the time he finds him­self in Jen’s crosshairs. Be­sides this “tra­di­tional re­verse of al­ways show­ing the girl naked and not the guy”, it be­comes im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the loom­ing pres­ence of rap­ere­venge flicks like 1978’s I Spit on Your Grave, which Re­venge trounces in terms of the graphic vi­o­lence in­flicted on its char­ac­ters. You won’t see a blood­ier film this year. But the direc­tor is quick to make a dis­tinc­tion.

“It’s re­ally just a re­venge movie,” she says, point­ing out that the sex­ual abuse, when it comes, is barely de­picted at all. The se­quence de­rives its power from the un­bear­able ten­sion that pre­cedes it and the ap­palling in­dif­fer­ence to Jen’s suf­fer­ing that fol­lows.

“So for me, the rape scene isn’t the core of the movie,” Fargeat says. “I think the psy­cho­log­i­cal vi­o­lence and the moral vi­o­lence is even stronger, with the char­ac­ter who does noth­ing and is gonna put the TV on, and the guy who is gonna tell the girl that it’s her fault.”

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