Have you ever seen a movie that takes your breath away from pure shock? Revenge was that movie for me. After months of not having time to watch Revenge, and missing it in the festival circuit early this year, I was finally able to see Coralie Fargeat’s directorial debut. Horror + female directors + female lead = me being one happy woman. Clearly we know what the movie really is about, but it is so much better once you get into it.
Vibrant colors plague the screen as we see Jen (Matilda Lutz) and a man take a helicopter to a secluded location, a quiet getaway with the man she is having an affair with. Richard (Kevin Janssens) is a married French man with a family but is madly infatuated with his Los Angeles mistress, Jen. After the couple have an erotic night to themselves, Jen wakes up to Richard’s two male friends standing outside waiting to get into the house with hunting rifles strapped to their backs. Stan and Dimitri are then let in by an aggravated Richard.
This is where things get uncomfortable. For Jen, she expected to have a nice weekend with Richard, however; with the interruption from his friends she had to make the best of what is to offer. Jen finds herself having a grand ol’ time dancing with the unwanted guests until Richard leaves. The next morning things get brutally out of control. Stan pokes and prods at Jen for her to answer his questions, she feels uncomfortable, and he then forces himself on her. Dimitri walks in on the rape occurring and turns around to let it continue as he turns up the volume on the television to muffle the cries for help. Richard finally returns to the home and is told by Stan of what happened. Richard freaks out realizing that his life could be jeopardized and offers Jen hush money and a getaway to Canada, never to contact him again.
At this point in the story, things turn and we see Jen really take control of what she wants to do. She wants justice. She demands a helicopter flight immediately to take her home to LA after refusing the hush money. Richard “called” the helicopter but injures Jen leaving her to her death. What follows is a unruly game of cat and mouse – revenge style.
The best scene in Revenge involves a cave and a recovering Jen. As she cauterizes her open wound with fire and a cut open beer can, you can feel the emergence of her new self. The beer can leaves an imprint of an eagle and this symbolism is so powerful for this scene. A new woman rising from the ashes to get revenge on the men who hurt her as she steps out of the cave. You can’t help but hope for Jen to go completely savage, and she provides.
Fargeat knows how far to take the grotesque nature just before it becomes too much. An amazing and unsettling thing that Fargeat does in this movie is film extreme close-ups that test the gag reflex. We get up close and personal with wounds of the characters as blood spews out of them like a waterfall. A fascinating touch is a close up of ants in three separate scenes. They’re shown on a browning bitten apple, crawling on Jen’s nearly lifeless body through her wounds, and walking on sand after blood in dropped on it from above. Ants symbolize strength, willpower, and determination. Each of the scenes involving ants also involves Jen in some way. This is another touch in showing that Jen is determined to fight her battle and she wants to win overall.
What works best for this film is that the one seeking revenge is not portrayed as someone immortal, that things will get in her way and sometimes hinder her original plan. It may not be refreshing to see a film about rape, but it is refreshing to see a rape-revenge film in the eyes of a female and feel satisfying by credits end. Unfortunately one hindrance that Revenge has is that there isn’t any character development for Jen. We don’t know much about her and how she can take care of herself in such extreme measures and how she can accomplish what she sets out to do. Though it may be a minor issue with the story and some parts do seem a little too unrealistic, it doesn’t take away from how completely awesome this movie is.
This take on French Extremism is nothing short of badass. Matilda Lutz lets it all out in her stunning performance. Writer/director Coralie Fargeat jumps into the horror world swinging with this directorial debut. Whatever comes next in her filmography, you can guarantee I will be there for it.