Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Starring: Matilda Lutz. Kevin Janssens, Guillaume Bouchède and Vincent Colombe
Distributor: Second Sight Films
RRP: £22.99


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 11 May 2020

I didn’t look forward to reviewing this picture. The AIM publicity sheet was adorned with quotes “Ludicrously gory… a midnight movie for the #Me Too era” (Vogue) and “Wonder Woman made terrestrial: a piece of radical feminist cheek blown through by earthly winds and populist pep” (Financial Times) and to top it off: “a bloody middle finger… a demand for reckoning… a kick in the balls with a feminine combat boot.” (Rolling Stone).


Revenge, French director Coralie Fargeat’s debut feature, is all this and more. Lots more. In the quality packed extras, Fargeat states her vision for this straightforward story: fairy tale escape for exorcising real fears of violation women share the world over, “especially now in Europe” Lutz adds. It has action, violence and blood, explains Fargeat, “lots of blood” but it’s more than that: It’s a concept picture. Escape and rebound from impossible odds in the grand fantastical tradition of the fairy tale to empower women the way classic fairy tales empowered children from the adult abuse that hovered over their lives. (I don’t know why I put this in the past tense; it would be better worded in the historic present tense.) Revenge is a contemporary fairy tale that offers comfort and howls of glee for women of all ages who are beset with the fear of rape. It has cheer inducing moments. Several times I laughed out loud for long duration.

The fairy tale component comes from the repeated escape and overcoming Matilda Lutz’s Jennifer exercises as she gets down and gets even. Transpose this to a guy picture like Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Revenant (2015) and nobody gives it a second thought, just an Oscar. DiCaprio’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes of decimation are no fewer and no more believable than Lutz’s so it’s obvious boys get to have fairy tales without analysis. Not girls though. Herein is Fargeat’s genius. She wisely perceives the tropes and transposes them with filmic elan. Yes, Hollywood has tried this a slough of times and has a red sea of ink to show for it. I won’t name the names; we know them well. Why remind that cloven hoofed herd their day is done in the pasture? If Hollywood had any sense it would invite Fargeat to lunch and talk projects. If this has happened and I just don’t know about it yet, I would warn the director to be afraid, be very afraid.

Better she stay in Europe and develop packages here. She shares how hard and gruelling it was getting the finance in harness in the Special Features interview Out For Blood. Every woman interested in filmmaking should see this. Every man too. It’s Fargeat’s resilience and determination that got the money for the thirty day shoot in the Morocco desert with a budget still so lean the hotel swimming pool of the production office back home was used for underwater scenes.

Revenge is efficient story telling, much of it non dialogic. The sound we hear within the scenes (music, television, wind, foot treading, flesh parting) tells us as much as does the dialogue; the non diegetic sound (electronic score by the marvellous Robin Coudert) amplifies the total effect perfectly. The diegetic/nondiegetic warping inside Jennifer’s head after she’s downed peyote is in the subjective realm of “both/and.”

Company man Richard (Kevin Janssens from Undercover) needs time away from his domestic boredom and brings Jennifer (Lutz) with him for a weekend tryst before a planned hunting party with two male friends. The luxury pad in the midst of bleakly beautiful desert is best reached by helicopter. Things are going swimmingly when Richard’s low dog cohorts arrive early. While Richard is away, one of them rapes Jennifer while the other watches for awhile, eats snacks (the slow-mo of his maw grinding a chocolate bar is one of those diegetic/nondiegetic cross over moments of brilliant impressionistic grotesquery) then turns on the TV to drown out her screams.

Richard returns, tries to make nice but Jennifer runs. All three chase after her until she’s stopped at the edge of a precipice, ten stories straight down. Richard tries one more token of reconciliation but she blurts she’ll tell his wife everything. He pushes her over the edge. She is impaled on a lifeless branch of desert scrub brush. She is not dead from the fall, only impaled with blood glurping out of her mouth and a pool cue sized branch sticking out of her stomach. Somehow inverted crucifixion and impalement broke her ten story fall. Did I say she wasn’t dead? Yes… I see I did. Shit Weasel Richard and his two junior ranking company gofers can see her down there. It will take them awhile to circle around and dispose of her. They’re not worried. Richard even suggests they do some hunting first to have something to show for the trip.

Our first act of impossible phoenix rising is now about to happen. Jennifer, inverted on the impaling branch, naturally wants off this petard. But how? I have never tried to lift my whole body off a long piece of wood sticking through my belly, have you? The double entendre sexual implications here are ludicrous yet oneirically compelling. But how? Jennifer sees on the desert floor two things: her iPhone earplug wires and a trusty Bic lighter. Despite her à l'envers perspective, Jen is able to lasso the Bic within reach. Next she scrunches some desiccated foliage to the base of her tree. She lights it. The ensuing fire weakens it to breaking and down she comes with the limb still protruding from her gut. She stumbles away.

Night-time. She has gone into a lake to hide her trail. One crony stays with their Range Rover while Richard and the other scumbag circle the lake on cycles. Jennifer sneaks out of the water and creeps up on the roving villain who’s rested and made a fire. She grabs up his shotgun and would shoot him but the chamber is empty. He overcomes her and radios Richard and the other slimeball who’s stayed with the Range Rover, that he’s caught her. The two others are converging on the site. Alone, he wrestles her into the lake and is drowning her. Underwater she sees his hunting knife in its holster. When he brings her up one last time to tell her how stupid she is, she plunges his knife dans son œil - jusqu'à la poignée. He thrashes about and howls. I must say, I too howled. With laughter. This is one of the most satisfying acts of vengeance I’ve ever seen in a movie. Then he dies. Jennifer “thwocks” out the knife. She’s tooling up. She grabs up the shotgun, bandolier, equips herself with his pack and races off on the dead asshole’s cycle.

Jennifer has found a cave. Quaffing a malt liquor from her newly acquired supplies, she builds a fire and addresses the jagged stick still in her body. (Yes, it’s still there.) Then she remembers she has pilfered some peyote Richard had bragged he was going to party with. The peyote takes over. Now inured to the pain, she cuts apart the beer can until she has it as a flat sheet. Heating this in the fire, she cuts and pulls the jagged shaft of wood from her body and slaps the hot aluminium onto her wound. Self surgery overcomes her and she has peyote dreams of being murdered again and again by Richard. Even “one eye” comes back. When she awakens, the wound is cauterized and her flesh is branded with the malt liquor eagle from the hot metal.

Richard and the other knobhead join up to find their cohort visually impaired, with a very wonderfully bloated face and, of course, dead. They’re desperate to find Jennifer now.

But this is a new Jennifer. One down, two to go. The cretin who raped her (Guillaume Bouchède) trails her up onto a mountain road. He has the Range Rover. It doesn’t matter, she ultimately bests him with a flashlight.

It may sound like I’ve given you spoilers but believe me I haven’t scratched the surface. The pace of the story is wonderful. It is so visual, any language works on the track. Fargeat melds stunning cinematography (Robrecht Heyvaert), inspired music by Coudert and editorial oversight by Fargeat herself to give us something reminiscent of Deliverance (1972) meets Kill Bill. (2003) She is a true auteur. All of this and more is noted in detail in Kat Ellinger’s excellent audio commentary and in the Limited Edition soft cover book with essays by Mary Beth McAndrews and Elena Lazic.

Matilda Lutz is a star. This picture assures it. Kevin Janssens has a dramatic range within scenes that is always interesting to watch and he has physiological confidence to act well when naked. Bouchède and Colombe are well tuned violins of character perfection. Casting is a big part of directing. Again this leads us back to Fargeat. The talent is in the choices. She has set a high standard for her next barbecue.

Women should like this movie and all red blooded gentlemen.


John Huff

Buy this item online