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Film Review


Few film fans in America have seen his work, but the Austrian director, Gotz Spielmann (born 1961), has made at least 8 films before Revanche. Spielmann has written and directed a compelling story of two couples, class opposites; one, middle class, and the other from the demi-monde, whose lives intersect in a very dramatic way. The film opens with a splash in a still country pond. We see nothing further. Then we see a couple making love in a shower, steamy in every sense: Alex, the driver/gofer for a Viennese brothel owner and his girl friend, Tamara, a Ukrainian, whom it turns out, is one of the women in the brothel. Such a relationship is strictly forbidden by the thuggish owner, so they must meet secretly. Alex loves Tamara, but is an ex-con who apparently cannot get a decent job, and has to watch while Tamara works. He rescues her when one of the customers becomes abusive, beats him up, but the owner forces Alex to apologize, further humbling Alex. The brothel owner wants to set up Tamara in one of his flats for his high end customers. They are both desperate to leave but neither have any money, and Tamara owes thirty thousand dollars to the owner. So Alex decides to do something that will change their lives. The other couple is Robert, a decent Austrian policeman, and his wife Susanne, who both seem happy in their lovely country house. Alex does do something dramatic, which results in the first contact between the two couples. I don't want to reveal more, but the story, already complex, becomes increasingly so, with often very unexpected shifts. But always told clearly.

The acting is outstanding; it put most American actors to shame. I didn't recognize any of the actors, but they all fantastic. It hardly seems as if they are acting. The cinematography is equally fine. Every scene is carefully shot, with deep saturated colors that seem appropriate for this dark story. The pacing seems perfect, but always with an increasing sense of tension. There is no music whatsoever, and the story is so riveting that the film has nearly ended before we realize there is no music. We are clearly dealing with a very skilled director here, who is able to elicit the surprisingly dark impulses, anguish, fears that are hidden inside the characters' skin. This is psychodrama at its best. The film is exactly two hours long, without a single lag in momentum. By the way, the word revanche means revenge, yet this is not a depressing film.

Revanche was one of the nominees for best foreign film for 2008, and lost to Departures. Having just seen Departures, which I liked, that vote seems incomprehensible. Revanche is the far better film, indeed a great film, and will easily make my ten best list for this year. Just opened at the Embarcadero, and I urge you to see it on the big screen. Don't miss this.

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