With its moody temperament and (almost) Eastern European roots, Austrian filmmaker Gotz Spielmann's Revanche plays out as high tragedy worthy of Chekhov or Turgenev, or perhaps Tarkovsky or Bresson (or Cassavetes in an American turn) but always with a seeming oblivious wink toward its audience. This wink (intentional or not) works both in the film's favor for a while and as the ultimate let down when all is said and done.
Though the story of two low rent lovers (played superbly by Johannas Krisch and Irina Potapenko) trying to escape the mundane humiliations of their urban lives by robbing a bank and heading for the proverbial hills, Revanche, as its title suggests, is essentially a tale of inevitable revenge after the aforementioned robbery goes tragically awry. This revenge theme works throughout most of the film, and through the glassy eyes of its antagonist, in perpetual foreshadowing motion, we see the ugly taste of that same said revenge piercing the flesh of all those around him. The film works on such a level, sort of a blend of Assayas and Ceylon, and the pacing and photography just add to the intensity exponentially building throughout.
Once the finale comes, though well played, it is the farthest thing thing from a surprise as one can possibly get. This isn't necessarily a large flaw, for so many movies, both good and bad and everything in between, have quite predictable endings, but it still puts such a damper on an otherwise though provoking film as this. Perhaps it is not revenge, but forgiveness that humanity needs and therefore it is a moral tale of sorts - and I suppose it is - but nonetheless, Spielmann's precalculated coda falls a bit short of the rest of his coldly calculating tragi-drama. Perhaps this is mere nitpicking and not actual criticism, especially since I liked and recommend the film overall, but there you have it anyway. I suppose forgiveness is not my forte. [06/21/09]