Gotz Spielmann’s Oscar nominated drama comes to UK DVD. John sees if it deserves another try…
All too easily life can go wrong. All that you love can disappear, all that you are can be revealed as less than nothing, and all that you have can be replaced by absence. That vacancy in your life can be filled by a desire to regain what’s gone or to punish those that you feel are responsible. You can work harder, you can seek revenge or thrills but you must do something to fill that loss.
The title of Gotz Spielmann’s film is as double edged as his work within it. Here grief is resolved through human error and an eventual unexpected balance. The fiercest and most vital of our feelings – anger, jealousy and malice – find themselves, if not at rest, but in a kind of revelatory grace by the time the titles roll. Beginning in Vienna, we are introduced to Alex, a heavy for a revolting pimp and the lover of his boss’s “property”- the Ukrainian prostitute Tamara. Alex is revealed as an ex-con, a failed son and a man who needs to escape. Forced to leave with Tamara, his planned nest egg of a bank robbery results in her demise at the accidental hands of Robert, a policeman and neighbour of Alex’s widowed grandfather.
At this point the action relocates to the country as Alex hides out with his ailing grandpa and prowls the neighborhood with boiling blood and endless grief. Robert too is grieving, lost in guilt and the consequences of his gunshot, and he is all but lost to his wife, Susanne. In essence, these four characters play out a kind of La Ronde of bereavement.Revanche is basically an antithesis to the modern trend of heist films as all action cores of loud and empty valueless entertainment. It does feature a robbery as its catalyst but it then takes its time, it avoids bloodlust and obvious dramatic climaxes, and most of all it respects the people at its heart and seems to wish them a kind of eventual peace.
This doesn’t mean that the adultery, killing and crimes are forgotten or that the central characters become perfect. It means that these people become wiser and find it easier to gain acceptance. There is almost something pastoral in the story’s travel and Alex’s return bears out the sense of his elder’s words that city folk become “arrogant” or “scoundrels” because he seems to lose these characteristics once returned to the countryside.Shot and scored with elegance, this is a stylish straightforward film which can’t help but affect a sensitive viewer. Occasional images, such as the rusty crucifixes in the forest, are unsubtle and some development of minor characters is slim. Yet what I saw really got to me and impressed me with its humane sensibility, and basic virtues of interesting story, sympathetic production and competent acting.
In fact, it even reassured me as I feel it will others. It made me think that even if life can all too easily go wrong there’s always a chance that catastrophe can have a purpose. It made that impact because of its good intentions and human warmth, and the fact that it is a very fine film indeed.
This Artificial Eye release comes on a region free dual layer disc with the film offered in an anamorphic widescreen transfer which respects the original aspect ratio. The transfer has not been over sharpened and I noticed nothing in the way of edge enhancement or obvious filtering. Colours represent the naturalistic appearance of the film allowing the few moments of impressionistic lighting to stand out, and the contrast is very steady too. You might argue that it’s a little soft but my suspicion is that the image is in keeping with the film-maker’s intentions.Moving on to the audio treatment, there seems to be a deliberate choice to not translate any of the Russian dialogue in the optional subtitles but there’s also a few snatches of untranslated German dialogue too which I found annoying. The audio tracks themselves have decent bitrates and the 5.1 mix does capture the ambience of the forest, much used in the film, even if both tracks sounded a tad trebley to my ears.
There are three extras offered on the disc with a trailer, an interview with the director, and a making of documentary. The interview features Spielmann talking very well in English about his desire to make a film which affects viewers intimately rather than being a crowd pleasing experience for the masses.
There’s more of the director in the documentary as he is followed around the set, and sadly I must report that he does do that annoying framing the shot with his hands gesture. I always assumed that only ever happened in fiction or with would be directors who are trying to look like Orson Welles – but I was wrong. This half hour long piece features burnt in subtitles which again miss large parts of dialogue and features some contributions from the key cast members. The erratic subs mean that a lot of the chat between the crew and cast is lost on the non-German speaking viewer.
It’s a good transfer and the interview is quite interesting but the existing Criterion release in high or standard definition may be the better choice.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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