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Nora von Waldstätten,
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Johanna ter Steege
Austria's 2009 Academy Awards official submission to Foreign-Language Film category. See more »
You should get married. A man needs a woman or he gets potty. You'll find one easily the way you work.
You think chopping wood impresses women?
They notice a man who can work. Won't be any different nowadays.
See more »
Revanche is a deliciously gritty neo-noir full of surprises, so many important ones that it is better not to go into too much detail about the plot. But as important as its clever narrative to the success of the film is its atmosphere, which has a contemporary and positively ethnographic precision, but builds on the traditional contrast between city and country. And there is another contrast: between two couples, an ex-con and a whore, and a cop and his wife who works in a shop. The first couple is on the edge of Vienna and the other lives in the country, but circumstances bring them together.
The action begins with Alex (Johannes Krisch) and his Ukrainian prostitute girlfriend Tamara (Irina Potapenko) in Vienna. Spielmann rubs our noses in the scummy world of a whorehouse on the outskirts of town, with its Eastern European sex workers and its slimy fat cat boss Konecny (Hanno Poeschl), for whom Alex works. Tamara speaks pidgin German, but she's not dumb, and when the boss offers her an upgrade to call girl in a flat, she knows it's trouble and resolves to run away with Alex. She owes a big debt, and he cooks up the robbery scheme so she can pay it off. He says it's going to work because he has a plan. He says that so many times we become certain it won't. But despite Rothkopf's tidy summary, the outcome isn't so simple. The bank robbery isn't botched, but it goes badly for Alex, and also for a cop named Robert "When people go to the city they become either arrogant or scoundrels. He's a scoundrel." So says Hauser (Johannes Thanheiser), Alex's grandfather, an old man failing in health who lives on a small farm. He exists outside the modern world almost completely, though he does drive a little old VW Bug. People don't think it's safe for him to still be on the road. When Alex goes to stay with Hauser, it seems almost that he's fallen off the map that includes the prostitutes and the scummy underside of Viennese life.
Alongside Alex's story is that of the policeman, Robert, who seems unable to give his wife Susanne (Ursula Strauss) a baby; too bad, because they both want one. They live in a nice modern house they've built, with help from friends, somewhere not too far from Alex's grandfather. In fact Susanne knows him.
"I'll give you one thing: you really are a hell of a worker," Hauser tells Alex. Alex hides out after the robbery by staying with his grandfather and cutting up a mountain of firewood. The work instinct unites the two men in spite of everything, and Hauser's declining health gives Alex another reason for staying around. He also has revenge in his heart for what's happened to Tamara. But things get complicated, people talk,and that changes.
Revanche builds on coincidence but in ways so rooted in gritty milieu and so gnarly and unexpected they really seem to emerge not from a writer's brainstorm but the downright mind boggling absurdity of real life. The word "revanche" can mean in German not only revenge, but also rematch--in short, a second chance. If Alex reaches a point where he can work out his salvation with diligence, it's much more quirky circumstance that gets him there than any pat change of heart. The satisfaction this film provides is delayed. It comes in the way it simmers and ripens after a viewing.
Martin Gschlacht did the excellent cinematography. The acting is strong and convincing, including that of the 83-year-old Thanheiser. With close to a dozen films under his belt, Spielmann, who also wrote the screenplay, is clearly at the top of his game. It will be a real shame if US theatrical audiences don't get to see Revanche on the big screen.
Revanche won the Europa Cinemas Label for best European film at the Berlinale, and has other awards, including two FIPRESCIs. It was a nominee for the Best Foreign Oscar. Shown as part of the Film Comment Selects series at Lincoln Center, New York, February 2009. "Revanche . . .has just been picked up for North American theatrical and home video distribution by art film distributor Janus and the Criterion Collection.
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