With ex-con Alex (Johannes Krisch) and his girlfriend, Ukranian hooker Tamara (Irina Potapenko), hoping to escape from Vienna forever, Alex plots to rob a bank to get the funds for a new life. “Nothing can go wrong,” he tells Tarama. But if his prediction turned out so, there would be no movie.
But since there is, there must be other characters introduced: there is Alex’s grandfather (Hannes Thanheiser, innocently stealing every scene he’s in), a guilt-ridden police officer (Andreas Lust), and his wife (Ursula Strauss), lonely and unsatisfied. Their lives, you may have deduced, collide tragically.
And then an old man gets dizzy spells, cows are tended to, and grocery shopping is done. The crawling pace (elongated further without the presence of a soundtrack) of Revanche (Revenge, which the film eventually turns into a story of) under director Götz Spielmann may test even the most disciplined of foreign film buff. The numerous scenes of Alex cutting and chopping wood are meant to build tension, but instead just bloat the film’s running time. How long can we really watch a man dice logs into a circular saw if we know he won’t lose an arm?
Revanche is a film that Spielmann assures will not rely on random acts of gratuitous violence, which clutter most revenge tales. Instead, Spielmann sidesteps all of the bang-bang and inserts other screen clichés, like the love triangle and the rob-a-bank-and-reach-paradise plotline.
Still, there are stellar aspects to Revanche that would be irrational to ignore, such as the gorgeously photographed city and countryside locales by Martin Gschlacht, and the strong yet subtle performances from Krisch, Potapenko, and especially Thanheiser.
But really what it all comes down to is a terribly dawdling story under a terribly boring title. Instead of Revenge, how about a title that, while just as generic, could better describe what the viewer is in for? Like Wood.
The Making of Revanche (36:13) uses behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and a Götz Spielmann narration to provide a look at the production of the Oscar-nominated film. A great addition for fans and aspiring filmmakers who want to see how scenes are developed during (pre-)production.
Foreign Land (44:43) is Götz Spielmann’s 1984 short film that “won first prize at the European Film Academy Awards.” Included is an optional director’s introduction.
Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is an 8-page booklet with an essay titled “Revival of the Fittest” by film critic Armond White.