13 September, 2009

Revanche (2008)

Sinned against or sinning?

EFA Official Selection, 2008

It's definitely a film of two halves, is Revanche (2008) by writer-director Götz Spielmann (Antares (2004)).

The opening section sees likeable neer-do-well ex-con Alex (Johanes Krisch) struggling to hold it together with his beautiful prostitute girlfriend Tamara (Irina Potapenko) - although the owner Aleksander (Reljic-Bohigas) of the 'Cinderella' brothel in Vienna where Tamara works is offering her a flat and more upmarket clients, Alex believes that he can pull off one last bank job and flee South with his love, sorting all their financial problems out at a stroke.

But tragedy strikes - policeman Robert (Andreas Lust) unwittingly disturbs Alex and Tamara's heist, with terrible consequences. Tamara is left dead, and Alex heads for the house of his Grandfather Hausner (Johannes Thanheiser), where he works to help the old man and take his mind off his own personal hell. But, as chance would have it, the next-door neighbours are the policeman (who did not see Alex's face during the robbery) and his wife Susanne (Ursula Strauss), who is herself getting over a recent miscarriage and desperately wants a baby.

Only Alex knows who's who - is revenge his only option?

The film works on many levels, and is primarily a credible study of the interaction between post-modern Central European human trafficking and pre-industrial Austrian 'Bauern' culture. Alex and his recently widowed grandfather's relationship, which forms a central tenet of the story, makes perfect sense - Hausner believes Alex to be good-for-nothing at first, but changes his mind gradually when he sees just how hard his grandosn is prepared to work, knowing nothing of what is actually driving him.

In German, the word 'revanche' has a double meaning, signifying both the obvious 'revenge' but also a second chance, and the implications of both are well developed throughout the story, as characters juggle their need to get even with their desire to secure their own futures. In short, if it is fate that controls the characters' destinies, it is also strength of will that ultimately decides who survives.

Slow but sure - a worthy watch.

Awards: Click here for details.


121 mins. In German and Russian.

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