Revanche (The Criterion Collection)
Special Edition, The Criterion Collection
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A gripping thriller and a tragic drama of nearly Greek proportions, REVANCHE is the stunning, Oscar-nominated international breakthrough of Austrian filmmaker Gtz Spielmann. In a ragged section of Vienna, hardened ex-con Alex (the mesmerizing Johannes Krisch) works as an assistant in a brothel, where he falls for Ukrainian hooker Tamara. Their desperate plans for escape unexpectedly intersect with the lives of a rural cop and his seemingly content wife. With meticulous, elegant direction, Spielmann creates a tense, existential, and surprising portrait of vengeance and redemption, and a journey into the darkest forest of human nature, in which violence and beauty exist side by side. (studio)
Director Götz Spielmann's Revanche, Austria's 2009 Academy Awards selection for foreign film, is quite a unique movie for its sensitive, empathetic portrayal of hard-boiled activity. Its gorgeously austere cinematography not only serves this sad story well but also makes the viewing experience more touching than one would expect from such a bleak narrative. Revanche, which means in German both "revenge" and "second chance," focuses on swarthy ex-con Alex (Johannes Krisch) and his girlfriend, Ukrainian prostitute Tamara (Irina Potapenko), a tender couple who are as naive as they are streetwise. Scenes set in the Viennese brothel in which they are both employed by a sleazy boss, Konecny (Hanno Pöschl), depict a couple stranded in financial ruin and dreaming of an exit plan. Meanwhile, a second story unfolds featuring Alex's aging grandfather, Hausner (Johannes Thanheiser), and his neighbors in their small village--Robert (Andreas Lust), the local policeman, and his wife, Susanne (Ursula Strauss). When Alex and Tamara's plan goes awry, the two couples' lives intersect in drastic ways. Not until their joint story becomes more grossly intertwined do they discover how much they all have in common. Revanche is a story about a struggle to repress vengeance and about how to redeem oneself after accidents occur. The acting in this film is astoundingly real, so the guilt that each character feels is crystal clear to the viewer. Crime, here, is so realistically complex that by the end it hardly seems like a crime has been committed at all. Moreover, as each character digs deeper into their sources of loss, one understands the humanity of such dire circumstance and learns about the overlap between urban chaos and the solace of nature via Austrian farm life. The second disc on this Criterion release contains excellent interviews with this insightful, intuitive director as well as his beautifully scenic student short film, "Foreign Land," about a boy in the Tyrolean Alps who learns how to manage his family farm. --Trinie Dalton
New video interview with Spielmann
The Making of: Revanche, a half-hour documentary shot on the film’s set Foreign Land, Spielmann’s award-winning student short film, with an introduction by the director
U.S. theatrical trailer
New and improved English subtitle translation
An essay by critic Michael Wood
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Top customer reviews
Gotz Spielmann's "Revanche", initially invites us to the beautiful city of Vienna and then spoils us by showing some of the gorgeous and serene Austrian landscapes.
In this breathtaking setting we are introduced with Alex, (Johannes Krisch) a man who works for a bar/brothel in the downtown area where he engages in a secret relationship with one of the Ukrainian prostitutes named Tamara (Irina Potapenko). Their strong feelings for each other provoke them to leave the brothel together in secret and start a new life. Despite their financially weak positions in order to embark on this new life, Alex devises a plan to rob the local bank in his grandfather's neighborhood. Moreover, the plan is quite simple and painless to Alex:
Approach the bank tellers wearing a ski mask while holding them at gunpoint and escape by driving away with Tamara. (Sounds pretty simple and painless)
Our next couple is that of Susanne (Ursula Strauss) and Robert (Andreas Lust) who live in the beautiful countryside outside of Vienna next to Alex's grandfather. On a surface level, Robert and Susanne seem happy; however, we soon discover that Robert's inability to impregnate Susanne puts quite a strain on their relationship. As a result, a conflict of interest surrounds the choice of adoption; Robert refuses to adopt someone else's child because he cannot be sure of it's inherent character as compared if it was his own. Susanne, on the other hand, is tired and impatient of Robert's failed attempts and wants to raise a child sooner than he can provide.
Alex's grandfather (Johannes Thanheiser), a diligent and hard working man who owns a small farm, is suffering from some unknown medical condition, or possibly just old age. His stubbornness disallows him to attend professional medical treatment because he simply does not want to leave the farm. Although the grandfather mourns the loss of his wife, the farms demanding maintenance keeps him busy and motivated, not too mention Susanne's frequent visits provides good company as well.
The interaction and relationships between these characters are very realistic and believable, and even more so in a very pleasant and mesmerizing setting no less. The carefully crafted and well thought out characters will easily immerse one into their personalities and actions. Personally, the opening scene of the film is one of my favorites which is a steady shot of a crystal lake and the reflection of it's surrounding trees; wild birds playfully and instinctively chirp, calm waters stand idle like a beautiful portrait and the subsequent soothing ripples that follow will definitely send a warm invitation to many. This opening shot is significant in the sense that it represents not just any ordinary reflection, but as a safe haven for two of the main characters to "reflect" on themselves and the choices that they have made.
Now, the closure of this review could not be justified without an extensive review of the picture and sound provided courtesy of the Criterion Collection. Let's just say that this film would be a nice piece of bait for a salesman trying to pitch a sale to a customer even remotely interested in buying a Blu Ray player. This Blu Ray disc does not disappoint in the least bit Quite frankly, I will go as far as to say that it is flawless. End of Story.
Fresh, lush vibrant Greens, different shades of sunlight, crisp skies, will literally come out of your screen like the most beautiful spring day you have ever witnessed. (I am not kidding either) You will smile at just about every pixel and shade of color that it emits from it with utter appreciation. From the interior of Susanne and Robert's modern house, to the grandfather's dreary and antique looking farm, to the crystal clear forests and gorgeous lake shots, you will be impressed. The array of colors shown in this film are presented to perfection; moreover, they are incredibly consistent and become more impressive within each passing frame. What's even more impressive is the depth of clarity during the exterior shots of the countryside, it is truly unbelievable. Whether it is the dirt, gravel, rocks, grass, bark or cobble stone the detail is so fine and sharp that it will leave you breathless. Flesh tones are rich and sharp as well; they shine and adapt well to the different variety of sunlight and weather patterns in the film. Overall, the picture is just purely consistent and flawless in every sense.
The sound which is presented in DTS HD MASTER Audio does not fall short in any regard either; however don't look for any rumbles or giant explosions raging through your speakers because that would be just frivolous, this is a drama centered on rich characters and their dialogue. For the most part, the sound will dominate through your center channel and front speakers quite nicely; the rear speakers will be given nice attention as well, particularly during the exterior scenes in the country side or during some of the downtown Vienna scenes. Small European cars will accelerate on the cobble stone with ease, light rain will padder and gently collect into puddles with superiority, the birds and wind breezes will delightfully hypnotize you, and the discharge of a Glock 17 Semi-Automatic pistol will break and startle your peace with pleasure.
I have to tip my hat off to the actors, the director and of course to the Criterion Collection for adopting this piece of artwork into it's collection. No other film distributor could of done it better. Amazing.
In a way, this one film, is two very different parts in both mood and tone. However, it is in fact, one linear storyline, that is separated by an event that occurs midway through the movie. And by the time, it's done, seemingly different as the two components of the film may be, the whole is quite impressive and unique.
While everyone likes (and awards) the flashy performances, the ones I always find most satisfying are the restrained, carefully measured ones. The lead actor here is singular in the sense that he is cold, hard, detached, and understated--as he should be--but he also some very intense emotional moments which are compounded upon impact by the fact that the viewer has become so accustomed to his usual demeanor.
Another unique component to this brilliant work, is that it has almost no music whatsoever. No score, only a few isolated scenes with music as a necessary component. It's all about the quiet moments, the words spoken, and the ambient nature sounds that sound rich, from even the most basic tv speakers.
"Revanche" has some rather bold narrative and filmic approaches to its relatively traditional minimalism, observationism, and very otherwise typically European film sensibility. It's a welcome fit to the Criterion Collection, and it would be a welcome addition to any cinemaphile's library.
Several people's lives will be affected including a policeman. The main actors in this powerful and tragic story have acted beautifully. This movie will stay with you for a long time.
Blu ray print is of a good standard and colours are rich with softer overtones.
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