Revanche (2008)

Written and directed by Götz Spielmann
Produced by Sandra Bohle, Mathias Forberg, Götz Spielmann, Heinz Stussak, Thomas Feldkircher
Starring Johannes Krisch, Ursula Strauss, Irina Potapenko, Andreas Lust, Johannes Thanheiser, Hanno Pöschl

“Between grief and nothing I will take grief.”

–William Faulkner, The Wild Palms


Ardent, amoral lovers hope to discharge her debt, realize his prospective enterprise, and eluctate from their employment as a whorehouse’s enforcer (Krisch) and star hooker (Potapenko) by a bank heist, which proceeds swimmingly until her tender heart is stopped by one of a few rounds misaimed by a hapless policeman (Lust). The brokenhearted ex-con sublimates his crushing grief with rural toil at the farm of his elderly grandfather (Thanheiser), and soon discovers that his dulcinea’s killer resides with his wife (Strauss) nearby.


A redemptive tenor implied by its bisemic title is fulfilled in Spielmann’s unadorned, fatalistic feature, in which impulsive and carnal phases of dolor, disgruntlement, dissatisfaction, and frustration are gracefully, naturally enacted, and neither muddled nor belied by any pronounced plethora.


Emphatic pans and seemingly simple still shots maximize every scene’s dramatic import. Spielmann’s style is spartan, but not minimalist, intimating forebodings and reverberations.


Alone and interacting, Krisch vehemently represents his felon’s facets: frolicly erotic with and sympathetically solicitous for Potapenko’s unsettled, traumatically battered inamorata; as taciturn as the aged widower who’s revived by his grandson’s subvention; inimically wounded in response to friendly visits by Strauss’s housewife; simmering with tristesse and wrath against Lust’s guilt, both men tortured by the same quietus to a climax comprehending a confrontational conversation. Attuned to their director’s instinct for passionate predication, this cast’s excellence obscures their script’s formidable challenges.


Spielmann’s objective observation of human nature relates moral themes with an austerity unmatched even by great contemporaries such as Farhadi or Kore-eda. Many dramas discourse on loss, sorrow, and remorse with the realistic reserve of his masterwork, but only a handful are so profoundly poignant.

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