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by Götz Spielmann

grade: 7.5

There is apparently no way of salvation for the protagonists of Götz Spielmann’s Revanche (as in any other work by the Austrian director). This implicit cosmic pessimism – filled, in its own way, with a subtle religiousness – assumes immediately a universal connotation concerning every historical period.

A dish best served cold

A master of the noir genre, known for the (not always) subtle eroticism that pervades all his works, Austrian director Götz Spielmann is one of the most appreciated names in contemporary Austrian cinema, even though in recent years he has been far less productive than in the past. On the occasion of the Diagonale 2019 was presented his Revanche, made in 2008, nominated for the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2009 and included in the section dedicated to the actor Hanno Pöschl – here in his last important film role.

In an underground Vienna full of nightclubs and private clubs, begins the story of Alex (Johannes Krisch), an ex-convict who has become the manager of a brothel. He falls madly in love with the beautiful Tamara (Irina Potapenko), who works as a prostitute in his own club. When the girl is threatened by the other owner, who wants her all to himself, the two organise a robbery in a small suburban village in order to start a new life.

A new life which, however, will soon turn out to be different from what was initially planned. And such sudden twists will only cause a morbid feeling in Alex’s mind, whose only aim and obsession will be to get a liberating revenge. All this, in fact, suddenly seems to be linked to Antares, the director’s previous work made in 2004, where the theme of obsession plays a central role. And Spielmann himself, in this regard, is particularly at his best when it comes to staging the inner torments of his characters in stories with a predominantly noir atmosphere.

Like the protagonist’s ghosts, the settings are pervaded by a dark lighting, which only rarely illuminates isolated landscapes or shabby rooms in a nightclub. The moments in which we can see the sun, more imagined than really perceived, are rare. Even in the daytime, in the middle of a park or near a waterway.

According to a rather unusual script, which is clearly divided into two parts of almost exactly the same length, Revanche shows us two completely opposite realities. First, as already mentioned, we are in a Vienna that is very different from its public image, and then we find ourselves in an isolated country village. The only common denominator: the fact that those who have broken the law can, in one way or another, find their place (or, better still, their hiding place) in society. Because, in fact, society doesn’t notice human beings, and considers them as insignificant entities, or as common bargaining chips.

There is apparently no way of salvation for Götz Spielmann’s protagonists. This implicit cosmic pessimism – filled, in its own way, with a subtle religiousness – assumes immediately a universal connotation concerning every historical period. This is proved, for example, by the locations, in which there is nothing that can refer to a specific era, but rather, in which we see objects belonging to decades ago, old cars and, last but not least, the total absence of any technological device (although Revanche was shot in 2008). This is the case for this film, as it was for the previous Antares and for most of the Austrian filmmaker’s feature films. Including those made for television.

Original title: Revanche
Directed by: Götz Spielmann
Country/year: Austria / 2008
Running time: 99’
Genre: noir, thriller
Cast: Johannes Krisch, Ursula Strauss, Andreas Lust, Hanno Pöschl, Irina Potapenko
Screenplay: Götz Spielmann
Cinematography: Martin Gschlacht
Produced by: Prisma Film, Spielmann Film

Info: the page of Revanche on