Directed by: Coralie Fargeat/2017
US Release Date: May 11, 2018
The debut feature film from writer/director Coralie Fargeat is a blood soaked tale of revenge that perfectly encapsulates the momentum of the movement that is seismically shifting the landscape of both Hollywood, and the culture at large, as it pertains to sex, privilege, and equality. Remarkably, it does all of this without any sort of preachy message, flowing dialogue, or oft-putting agenda. How it does it is by simply shifting the genre perspective of a typically male-dominated blood-soaked revenge flick into one with a female protagonist, where the camera substitutes for the male-gaze.
Through the lens of the male-gaze, the result is a riveting tale of horror that embodies every reason why the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are globally felt and understood. This movement, in a broad sense, captures the slow but steady progress for women’s equality and why the oppressive chains of patriarchy are being cast aside for hopefully what leads to (what should have always been) a true society of equals.
While all of that is felt by the end of this tale, no such pronouncements are made from the characters. The story itself is rather quite simple. Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz- Rings) is an American girl who has been whisked away by helicopter to a remote desert getaway home by her very married French boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens). She emerges from the helicopter with a short skirt, breast-hugging shirt, and sucking a lollipop….the embodiment of every male-based fantasy, and a convenient set-up for those that see women like this and believe “they are asking for it”.
Jen and Richard soon are engaging in sex and play, in-between him calling his wife to check on the arrangements of his child’s upcoming baptism. As Jen prances around the home with her iPod in her underwear, she is startled by two men looking at her through the window from outside. Richard, had planned to send her home the next day before the arrival of his two hunting buddies, but they are a day early for their annual trip.
Being the only girl among three men, she makes the most of it, partying with them. They drink, laugh, and she seductively dances with Stan (Vincent Colombe), who apparently takes this moment to heart. You can almost hear Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber quote “So you’re telling me there’s a chance”. The next morning when Richard heads into town to pick up something, Stan takes his opportunity to pick up where the dance from the previous night left off. Sober, Jen politely tells Stan that she isn’t interested. Stan responds by forcefully raping her while the other friend of Richard, Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede), sees what is happening and coldly keeps munching on his snack, closing the bedroom door, and turning up the television to drown out Jen’s increasingly louder screams and cries.
When Richard returns, he is furious with his friends, but seeks to keep Jen calm so that she won’t say anything to his wife. When she is upset at him for his selfishness, he viciously slaps her, and she takes off with all 3 men in hot pursuit until she is cornered at the edge of a cliff. It is here that Richard, in a blind rage, shoves her off of the cliff as a means of ridding himself of a future marital issue. Its obvious that she is just an object of desire that is easily replaced.
Richard’s friends, while shocked, are all complicit. Even Stan is willing to turn himself in and try to save her, but Richard convinces them otherwise, invoking a convenient plan to explain her death….but Jen didn’t fall to her death. She was instead impaled on a tree branch, but still alive. What follows is her brave attempt to not only survive her injuries, but also the three men who are in close pursuit when they realize that she is still alive. This leads to one of the goriest revenge tales there is….but it is captivating.
All of the above set-up is provided in the trailer for the film, but how it plays out is the tapestry where the true threads of the film play out, without any real dialogue needed to drive home the point. From the moment Jen is impaled on the tree branch, and begins her journey of survival and revenge, she ceases to be the sex object that stepped off of the helicopter. The lens of the camera, substituting for the male-gaze, ceases to see her as an object to be had, and as an individual to be feared. Stan and Dimitri are able to shift their thinking about Jen much quicker than Richard, but it is clear that their fear is not that they may be found out for a crime, but that they, skilled hunters, actually see Jen as their equal as the tables are turned in their pursuit of her.
Richard, however, holds on to the out-dated and ignorant notions that women are simply objects for his pleasure until the end. Nothing better encapsulates this than his statement towards Jen, blaming her for everything, when he basically says, “Why did you have to fight back? Women always fight back.” It perfectly captures the attitude that has given rise to a global uprising against men in power who would use that power to oppress others. But Jen, played wonderfully by Matilda Lutz, takes back that power when she says enough. The result is that she ceases to be simply a piece of eye candy and an object, and instead becomes what she should have always been seen as, an equal.
The movement that has seen the conviction of Bill Cosby, the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, and many more. It is reverberating, far beyond the Hollywood hills, and is entering every dark crevice and corner of the culture where men, obsessed with power and their own desires through the control of others, live. The bottom line is that type of man has no safe refuge in the new world, and like Richard, will not last much longer.
In Revenge, Lutz gives us a heroine for this movement that is every bit in the style of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, or Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. Each of these examples are strong, capable, vulnerable, and fully realized women that are every bit the equal of their male counterparts. Combine this type of heroine with an inexhaustible amount of blood and fun (yes, you read that right, oddly enough given the rape-revenge plot), and you get Revenge.
Revenge opens today at the Alamo Drafthouse, and other theaters (but be careful what food you choose to order for this one!).