Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Revanche, the 2008 Oscar nominated (Best Film in a Foreign Language) Austrian thriller depicts Alex and Tamara, a security worker and prostitute longing to escape the brothel they work at and their current redundant existence so Alex decides to rob a bank to fund such a possibility - a fairly generic storyline on the surface but director, Gotz Spielmann understands plot in cinema is secondary to striving for the unique moments and emotions it is able to present.

The bank in question is located in a small town near Alex's grandfather's countyside dwelling, which consequently becomes a hideout. However, this tranquil location is conflicted in the shape of the neighbouring policeman, Robert and his wife, Susanne, who often visits the widowed grandfather. The prostitute and policeman are adequately written roles but the beast of this film lies within the complexities of Alex and Susanne's relationship.

Alex is mysterious, slightly aloof but intelligent. Despite his occupation, he is described as 'soft' by his ruthless boss, to which he doesn't reply or flinch, as Alex already realises this himself - he would like to be edgier and cut-and-thrust, yet this is not in his demeanour or perhaps his daily environment and history have repelled him from such personality traits. Surrounded by violence and outsiders may repulse Alex but he is familiar with danger and concludes his best opportunity to escape such social decay is to indeed risk danger. As our protagonist does not possess a naturally ruthless streak, he must briefly become such a character, a mindset he helps to create by beating a customer and playfully tricking Tamara wearing the balaclava he will later require. The latter scene perfectly demonstrates his curious relationship with violence and danger, as they share one of several cutely judged intimate moments.

Susanne is warm, motherly and seemingly ideal wife material yet in many ways, she is the most troubled but alarmingly 'real' character, beautifully played by Ursula Strauss. Alex and Susanne's attraction is much more intriguing and complicated than purely physical. However 'cold' Alex would like to be perceived as, they share a softness and a willingness to emphasise and show compassion. They emphasise with each other's predictament, Robert's issues and both bring comfort to Alex's grandfather, as she communicates and encourages his accordian playing, whilst Alex manages and attends to the farm. Although the unlikely pairing hold this connection, they are further attracted by each others existence - he is envious of her wealth and supposed tranquility, whilst she is secretly drawn towards a more complex and exciting state of living.

Secrets and hiding are a central theme throughout the film and it's characters - hiding from the city, the law, daily reality and most crucially, themselves, and in this sense, Revanche resembles elements of Haneke's modern classic, Cache (2005). Director, Spielmann is highly interested in intimacy and how such delicate moments can be captured and there is a stillness and authenticity in the film's intimate moments. The overall drama never feels forced and all scenes and subsequent events and actions are believable, as they are hard earnt and we understand how such emotional states come to be and why they occur. The title, Revanche, is a word of French origin, translated as 'revenge' but in Germany and Austria, it can be commonly meant as to seek another or a second chance - a thoughtful title for a thoughtful film.


  1. Brilliant movie, awesome that you liked it.
    Wasn't it robbed of the Oscar?

  2. That's a tricky one for me Jose. I think The Class just about wins it but Revanche sure is lingering so this may change!

    At the moment, I'd have it:

    01 The Class
    02 Revanche
    03 Waltz with Bashir
    04 Departures
    05 Baader Meinhof Komplex


  3. 1) Revanche
    2) Walt With Bashir
    3) The Class
    4) Departures
    5) Baader Meinhof Complex

    I didn't fall hard for The Class, it's more of an admiration thing than actual love I guess. Great category though! I think it was best of the decade until this year's came along. The last two movies I could've completely done without though.