Rape Revenge movies. Do we need them? From I Spit On Your Grave 1 through 4 to Big Driver to Bound to Vengeance, they seem to be here to stay – and they all have one thing in common. Even straight up revenge films with female leads – Eye for an Eye, The Last House on the Left and The Brave One – have the same common denominator. Male directors. A male telling a female how to feel when she is being raped, abused, beaten and harassed. It doesn’t seem right. A recent online poll suggests that 81% (more than 3 out of 4) of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, so its likely that any actress in such a role has experienced some form of sexual harassment. It would be like telling a holocaust survivor how to act in a movie about WWII. It just isn’t appropriate. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there are heaps directed by women, and I just can’t find them.
Writer/Director Coralie Fargeat has done wonders with Revenge. It is a great film by all accounts – but I will get to that later. I want to make one more point. In all the films I’ve seen with a rape scene, they all show it, explicitly. Close ups on crotches, thrusts, bound hands and bloodied bodies. Why? Are we men really that depraved? Realistically one only needs to read about the controversy surrounding Last Tango in Paristo answer that question.
Back to Revenge. It’s a simple film with a basic plot. Jen (Matilda Lutz) goes away with her lover Richard (Kevin Janssens) to a rural desert getaway a few days before Richard’s mates are scheduled to arrive and go on their annual hunt. However, Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) rock up early and spoil the party – by having a party. After a night of heavy drinking, Richard heads off to run some errands, leaving Jen alone with Stan and Dimitri. Stan thinks he deserves more than the quick lap dance he got the night before amidst a heap of vodkas and decides to take it. He rapes Jen without a second thought while Dimitri swims laps of the pool to help cure his hangover. After Richard gets back, he tries to fix the situation by giving Jen a sum of money and shipping her off – angry at Richard’s classy get-over-it attitude, Jen runs away. The trio of wealthy married men decide to continue on with the hunt but with a different prey in mind. But Jen doesn’t want to give up and from there you get an idea of what goes on.
Revenge isn’t all that different from other films of this nature – where the girl survives her initial torment and fights back. It’s a basic format that makes for good entertainment – although after watching Revenge I now know that the rape scene does not need to be a part of the film. What differs in this film is the quality of the screenplay from Fargeat. It is excellently written. After the rape, Richard tells Jen “it’s hard to resist you”, like some sort of excuse for Stan’s sexual appetite. It rings true to what we hear after a rape in the real world – what was she wearing? She was asking for it! Lines that are heard so often in such instances. Even at the end Richard is still so up himself that it is cringe worthy but still so realistic.
The male ego – will it ever change?
Fargeat’s direction is crisp. Notably, the extreme close-ups of almost seemingly random things. Dimitris mouth while chewing on junk food, an ant struggling to escape dripping blood – while so simple – they also were great analogies for their respective scenes. And when there is violence it is unrelenting and unforgiving – it was excellent – it kept me on my toes. It kept me shocked, unable to look away.
The performances were above your average low budget revenge film. Matilda Lutz was great as the ignorant and fun-loving Jen. She was joyous but oh so vulnerable without ever realising it, making her turn as a revenge seeking survivalist really turn your head. Colombe and Bouchède as Stan and Dimitri are also great as the creepy friends. Colombe’s Stan especially is so desperate for attention from Jen that it is almost sickening, but again, so realistic.
And Kevin Janssens is great as Richard. The alpha male. The leader of the pack. Solving problems and shouting orders like any ‘great’ man would do – only to find that he doesn’t help himself in any way, shape or form throughout the film. In fact, like in many situations where an alpha male takes the reigns – he ignores advice from his betas, that would have helped, a lot. And his confidence is second to none – while never fully having the upper hand at any moment during the film he berates Jen – after all her efforts in surviving, her grit and determination mean nothing to him. “Women always have to put up a fucking fight” he says. Such a perfect line in terms of women social status in the world today. Much like people of colour, women are also still fighting to have themselves heard and to get what from middle-aged wealthy white men? The same attitude Richard has.
Keep an ear out for the cool 80’s electro sound track too, Robin Coudert gets an A+ plus here. It made the film noticeably more enjoyable which for me is a rarity when it comes to the soundtrack. The other part of the film that is crazy and worth noting is the fake blood slip and slide toward the end of the film. It’s so hectic and ridiculous but oh so pleasurable.
Director: Coralie Fargeat
Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe
Writer: Coralie Fargeat