Wednesday 5 September 2018

Revenge (France/Belgium 2017: Dir Coralie Fergeat)

Young, glamorous Jennifer is helicoptered in to chisel jawed, well to do Richard's country retreat - all designer furniture and no soul - for a dirty few days before Richard's missus and kids come to stay. Through a mistiming issue Richard's mates Stan and Dimitri also come a calling for a spot of hunting, thinking that Richard is on his own. When they catch a look at Jennifer the agenda changes, and although she is initally flirty with all of them, when Richard leaves the house on a spot of business Stan rapes Jen after she rebuffs him; while this is going on Dimitri simply turns the TV up to drown the screams and goes for a swim with not a care in the world - possibly the film's most chilling moment.

On Richard's return, guessing what has happened, he alters Jennifer's return arrangements to keep the trio out of jail - "you're so damned beautiful, it's hard to resist you" he offers as explanation. And when she manages to escape from her captors Richard pushes Jennifer down a ravine, her body impaled on a tree stump. He's certain that she's dead, and that he can clean up the mess after a spot of hunting, but when Richard and the others return to the scene of the crime Jennifer's body has gone, and it's the turn of the hunted to turn hunter.

Revenge, as the title suggests, is a brutal romp that in its relentless obsession with suffering and injury calls to mind those other Gallic toughies, 2003's Haute Tension and Martyrs from 2008. Fergeat's debut feature raises some challenging questions about the perception and objectification of women - like what does it take for someone to transform from super cutie to woman wronged (a question also asked back in 1978's I Spit on Your Grave - and its 2010 remake and inevitable sequels). In this case wronged Jennifer is aided in her transformation by a large dose of Peyote which she consumes to help her remove the stump of tree she's been walking around with in her gut, and to cauterise the wound post removal (with a heated up flattened beer can that leaves its brand imprint on her stomach like a badge of honour). By the end both behaviourally and physically she's a different woman.

The revenge itself is delivered in a rather other wordly way with Jen becoming rather instantly resourceful with gun and knife - it's arguable that the intensity of her fightback and the courage she needs is in part drug driven - and Fergeat uses the arid landscape of countryside doubling as desert to enforce this strangeness. A mouldering apple core in the house's kitchen, which Jen bit into and then abandoned for less innocent pleasures - is patently Biblical; something clearly metaphorical is going on here.

That's not to say that Revenge isn't a highly effective thriller, with impressively brutal performances from the four key players (particularly Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz who as Jennifer inhabits the role in an absolutely visceral way) and some breathless editing. "Women always have to put up a fucking fight," says Richard towards the end, summarising the film's content and subtext in one line. Quite.

No comments:

Post a Comment