Revenge

If you’ve ever been pushed off a cliff, this is the film for you.

Words are weak to describe just how much I enjoyed this film. On the face of it, it’s a disturbing statement, as this grindhouse slice of rough is as bloody as they get. But once you transcend the gore, the sheer originality of its dynamics, the ingenious transgression of its point of view, which happens to be a according to a woman’s frame, makes it a thrill ride of mythic proportions.

The myth in question is that of a phoenix, a lady bird, and if you think you know how the creature has to die in order to be reborn, forged in fire, think again. The pain threshold is set sky-high in this one, the wound itself – irrepressibly symbolic. And the heroine’s journey is undertaken by that most likely of cinema’s punchlines, one so rarely lionised – the sex kitten, the Lolita, the eye candy, the willing participant in the age-old temptation game, a shampoo commercial Delilah – a girl to be judged by women, ogled by men, and dismissed with a roll of an eye.

The film has been termed a rape-and-revenge horror, and all three elements are present and viscerally powerful as the story unfolds. However, what it seemed to me to be, most of all, is an ancient, archetypal tale of retribution – a primal, sacred feminine cry of rage at a stamped-and-sealed manufactured destiny of being superficially adored, carelessly utilised, brutally assaulted, and cold-heartedly discarded – and the intensity of the regenerative force this allowing of a hard-earned wrath unleashes.

The questions posed in Revenge are urgent, and pivotal. They are also feminist. Above all else, they are humane. How our natural sexuality attracts the good, the bad and the ugly, where the lines in the sand are drawn between the gaze and the touch, what this curvy yet surgically precise demarcation does to our personalities as we grow into the world of visually acquired worth and violently entitled ownership of the territory of a physically weaker other… What we become if we fight back in equal measure.

It’s incredible what a slight shift in perspective can do. Director Coralie Fargeat, actress Matilda Lutz, respect.

★★★★✩

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