Revanche's slowly unraveling drama about humanity in the face of easy and accessible vengeance sitting on a tee, is powerful in the way it lingers with you for the remainder of the day. Blogger friend Daniel Getahun often writes of "taking it [a movie] home with you", a label that helps draw that line between emotional art and entertainment. It wouldn't be silly to compare the series of events - and the significance of them - which take place over Revanche's two hours to that of a flower bud blossoming wide. For a movie that announces itself (and a verbally dirty noun) in bold lettering and quickly moves to semi-degrading images in a brothel, one starts to worry that the rest of Revanche is going to dwell in the Euro-scuzz worlds of Lilya-4-Ever or Hardcore. But patience pays off as the sex house becomes nothing more than temporary residence for a film that eventually transcends all settings.
Sometimes watching a movie can assist you in quickly moving another movie that was hanging around in your subconscious limbo to its rightful resting place. This is what taking in Revanche did for me over my indecision about Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. Seen in the middle of a twenty-eight film viewing hurricane, I initially left the screening of Antichrist sure that I despised it, but unable to shake its lingering impact on me. Since both films tackle the emotions of resolution (albeit it very disparate ways), it was quite easy for me to leave the screening of Revanche knowing, for certain, that Antichrist is garbage. Provocative and well shot garbage, but garbage nonetheless. That's definitely not to imply that a vengeance film which travels down a separate path than Revanche does is worthless. Not at all. For instance, I find the anger in The Brave One and Dead Man's Shoes to be quite convincing as a nod towards something harrowing about humanity. Lars Von Trier, on the other, still needs to discover the "H" word before commenting on it.
Thematically, Revanche reminded me of Terry George's underrated Reservation Road, where the loss of a son happens at the hands of a hit-and-run fluke. While the journey that Joaquin Phoenix's character takes isn't handled with nearly as much grace as Alex's is in Revanche, there is ultimately an immense swallowing of wrath that propels both films towards profundity. Again, referring back to old-school structure, Revanche's visually poetic storytelling could be seen as a throwback to the man vs. man dilemmas expressed in early cinema. Like lyrics in a song, great dialogue can really enhance the glow of a film, but no verbiage can ever communicate more concretely than the richest of compositions. Take the shots of Alex and Robert (a policeman) separately staring at photographs of Tamara (Alex's girlfriend). Their compassion towards the subject in the photo originates from different places and arrives out of different circumstances, but the wealth of emotion between their eyelines/bodies and a piece of paper is something that only a well-guided camera could capture.
Finally, in one last lunge to laud this film, I wanted to voice my disagreement with reviewers who have been labeling Revanche a thriller. It's not that I dislike thrillers or even get ruffled over another's categorization of a film, it's simply that I see this movie as something larger than a genre piece. Generally, thrillers that dribble out information in order to make you feel like you're solving a puzzle, do so in order to give the viewer a secondary buzz to the actual experience of watching a film, but Revanche's reveals are in place for the evolution of the characters' resolve, not the audience's enjoyment. Yeah, it's a small quibble, but one I felt was worth getting out. Dissecting small details matter when you're discussing one of the year's best films.