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Revanche (The Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Götz Spielmann
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

Product Details

  • Actors: Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Andreas Lust, Ursula Strauss, Johannes Thanheiser
  • Directors: Götz Spielmann
  • Writers: Götz Spielmann
  • Producers: Götz Spielmann, Heinz Stussak, Mathias Forberg, Sandra Bohle, Thomas Feldkircher
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002XUL6MG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,990 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Revanche (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 21, 2009
Format: DVD
I saw this in the theater, but I'm excited to hear that it's going to be given the Criterion dvd treatment. It certainly deserves it for the depth and intrigue and subtlety of the film, and for the power of the visuals.

Alex and Tamara are in love. Unfortunately, there's little chance their love can work out. He's an ex-con working as a bouncer at the brothel where she turns tricks for a cruel and jealous pimp, who's not about to let her go and who would kill Alex if he found out. Hoping to make enough money to turn things around, Alex plots a fail-safe bank robbery, in which he thinks no one could possibly get hurt. He doesn't even bring a loaded gun. Things don't work out as he planned, however, and Alex has to take refuge at his grandfather's farm out in the country, where events take a truly unexpected turn.

The film opens with a powerful image that suggests the feel of the film that follows. A beautiful rippling reflection of trees in a pond at dawn (dusk?) is given an ominous sense by the lightly disturbing tones that hum softly in the background. Suddenly and loudly, the eerie calm is disrupted by a heavy object that is thrown into the water. The images of a tranquil forest, reflected in the trees, are interrupted violently by the splash and subsequent waves, until they gradually return to a semblance of their former look. Likewise, the uneasy peace of a small town is interrupted by the bank robbery, and the uneasy marriage of a childless young couple is further unsettled by the husband's tragic chance encounter with the criminals. It's hard to know in advance whether the easygoing peace will return.
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Format: DVD
'Revanche' is a film that ends strong but begins ugly and vulgar, although there's no question that the life director Götz Spielmann portrays is exactly that. Because of its candid approach, some viewers may find the frank portrayal of a brothel disturbing, and even perhaps unnecessary for a film that is ultimately concerned with redemption and forgiveness - but in this case I believe it's justified. One of my usual complaints about film in general is the use of clichéd shortcuts that hand the viewer stereotypes instead of characters, and even though Spielman doesn't escape it completely, this film's reflection of prostitution transforms the character of Tamara from cardboard into a real human being, and is what enables the build-up for film's quietly compelling finish.

Alex, an ex-convict, works as a gopher/driver for the owner of the brothel, and, in secret, carries on an affair with Tamara, a prostitute who needs 30,000 dollars to essentially buy her freedom. He hatches a plan to rob a bank, thereby acquiring the money they'll need to escape their dead-end lives (I've yet to see this turn out to be a good idea). Unsurprisingly, the bank robbery does not go off as planned, and Alex must confront the dark corners of his nature and decide what sort of revenge is justified when the world doesn't go along with your desires.

I've purposely left out a lot while summing up the film because, even though the information is easily accessible, it moves at different pace and with so few conventional clues that it achieves a heightened unpredictability that I wouldn't want to ruin. Unpredictable may be too strong of a description, but the director does add a dose of uncertainty to a storyline that, in other hands, might have been numbingly safe and routine.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Call me jaded, but as someone who's studied film, been a film critic, and been a film enthusiast for years, one can't happen to notice that typically the Oscar for Foreign Language film goes to something "heart-felt" and "sentimental" versus "depressing" and "minimailist." (And I promise I won't rant about the insanely outdated, ridiculous system that prevents many of the best foreign films from even being eligible for a nomination.)

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.
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