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Berlinale 2008: "Revanche" (Spielmann, Austria)

Revanche shows just how one can transpose the drama of Hollywood to the refined style of European art-house cinema.
Revanche

Above: Johannes Krisch (left) and Ursula Strauss (right).

Revanche shows just how successfully one can transpose the plot and character based drama of Hollywood to the refined style of European art-house cinema without hampering it with a sense self-importance. The film’s story of an unhappy Ukrainian prostitute (Irina Potapenko) and her boyfriend (Johannes Krisch) who works at her brothel essentially has all the ingredients of a sordid American narrative: exploitative setting, crime, a botched armed robbery, and an accidental murder. It is this last element that sparks the title and the film’s focus on contemplating vengeance. But Götz Spielmann’s film is far from the exploitative thrill ride this description would suggest. His approach is respectful and measured, as if wanting to give what would normally be considered a B-plot its due. There is no pretension in his scenes, each usually made up of longer takes and only one or two shots, all from a cool, respectful distance. Patience is the key, the film noticeably lacking any additional, deep-seeded psychological tumult that this divergent, far more brooding approach to such a story might bring to the robber’s boiling desire, while hiding out, to find and kill the murderer who upset the robbery.

Revanche takes the kind of story usually compressed into a taut, 90-minute film and carefully elongates it, drawing out relationships always given the short shrift in a more compacted versions—the attachment between the robber and his girl, between the cop (Andreas Lust) who ends up killing one of them and his wife (Ursula Strauss), between the robber’s father and the survivor, the cop’s wife and everyone else. Although coincidence connects everyone's relationship to one another just a bit too much, it also allows each character to settle into their tragedy by developing relationships with those similarly, but unknowingly affected by the very same events. The cop tears himself up over the murder, the robber over the lost loved one, and both the wife and father on the outside, one trying to push her way in deeper, the other trying to pull himself out, distance himself from this world and leave it for a better place. The idea seems too simple but the results speak for themselves: deliberation clearly can turn the regular into the accomplished. Revanche does just that, taking the time not to imbue its story with anything new or different, but rather giving a clichéd story room to breath, to settle down and admit its emotions, and to find its own tempo and tragedy on its own terms, in its own time.

Shaz
Brilliant film. Thanks for the review.

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