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Blu-ray Review: Revanche (2008)

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We’re told that the best laid plans are of mice and men. Many times, however, said plans do not go according to plan — and any creature (be it a man, a mouse, or otherwise) can easily attest to having experienced a case of unforeseeable failure at some point in time. As a result, we’re often told that life simply isn’t fair. And yet, despite the fact that most (or perhaps even all) of us grow up knowing full well that our plans in life may go awry — no matter how honest our intentions may be — we still tend to get upset when the shit hits the fan anyway.

Take the poor saps in Revanche (2008), for example.

Alex (Johannes Krisch) is little more than a low-level thug who lives and works in the seedy red-light district of a Viennese suburb. His Ukrainian-born girlfriend, Tamara (Irina Potapenko), is up to her pretty little neck in debt, and works as a prostitute. Both people are employed by a stout slimeball named Konecny (Hanno Poeschl), who allows his cash-paying clients to assault Tamara (as well as the other working girls), while taunting Alex for being “too soft” to do anything other than performing the most menial of tasks he gives him every step of the way.

Suffice to say, life isn’t all that Alex and Tamara were probably hoping it would be. And so, it is with the well-known “delusions of grandeur” that ex-con Alex begins to fantasize about holding up the local bank — thus giving he and Tamara the financial means to escape their squalid surroundings and start life anew.

Sadly though, Alex’s best laid plan is cut to a staggering halt when police officer Robert (Andreas Lust) happens to approach the getaway car with Tamara in it, and fires upon the fleeing vehicle — mortally wounding Tamara in the process. Fleeing to his elderly grandfather’s farm in the countryside, only to learn that officer Robert lives close by with his wife (Ursula Strauss).

Both men have been left emotionally crippled by the tragic encounter — one for having lost a life, another for taking it away. Neither man is able to open up to his family about his feelings, however. For Robert, it would mean exposing his own vulnerability. For Alex, on the other hand, it would mean going back to prison and forfeiting his distorted dream once and for all. As tensions grow, Alex is overcome with a single and insatiable desire: revenge — or, as some Europeans say, Revanche.

As one would expect, the perfectionists at the Criterion Collection have done their utmost to present Revanche as it should be seen: as a story on film and not another bloated Hollywood blockbuster popcorn movie. The Blu-ray offers up a stunning 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p MPEG-4/AVC transfer that, unlike every other High Def release, doesn’t up the contrast to draw you in — that’s what the movie’s for, after all. Colors are breathtaking throughout the entire film, maintaining a “normal” appearance that only makes you feel like you’re right along the characters.

The audio side of Criterion’s Revanche is equally impressive — which is hard to do for a movie that contains no incidental music score. The German-language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track brings every word of dialogue and every single sound effect (no matter how trivial) into your room with no problems, and delivers plenty of material for front and rear speakers alike.

Special features for Criterion’s Revanche are somewhat limited. First off is an exclusive interview with writer/director Götz Spielmann that was recorded by Criterion for this release in 2009. Next up is a behind-the-scenes featurette from the set of the film; followed by Spielmann’s 1984 student short film, "Foreign Land," with an optional introduction from the moviemaker. Lastly, there’s a U.S. release trailer for Revanche, and a booklet housed within the Blu-ray’s case featuring “Revival of the Fittest,” an essay by film critic Armond White. While it’s always nice to see High Def bonus materials, the bonus items included here really didn’t do much for me: Revanche exceeded all of my expectations so much, that a mere interview with the director or a behind-the-scenes look just didn’t seem to be complimentary enough for such a powerful film.

Odds are, though, it was just me — and I commend Criterion for their efforts, nonetheless.

A beautifully planned and played out film, Götz Spielmann’s tale of tragedy encompasses viewers — it’s an intelligent, thought-provoking film that just goes to show there are still talented filmmakers out there. Sure, there are a lot of people out there who will be put off by the whole “foreign” and “subtitled” factors, but then, those are probably the same people that wouldn’t be able to appreciate a film of such sublime beauty.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.