Austria's Academy entry makes U.S. premiere
By John Esther
As the German word "revanche" would or could indicate, writer-director Gotz Spielmann's tale is a mediation on revenge and return -- of sorts.
Alex (Johannes Krisch) is a gopher guy gangbanging for a pimp in the red light district of Vienna. In addition to his deranged duties, Alex has taken on the dangerous preoccupation of falling in love with a coke-snorting, Eastern European prostitute, Tamara (Irina Potapenko).
Tired of their abuses and looking for freedom, Alex holds up a bank in the countryside.
Outside the bank awaits Tamara in the passenger seat in the getaway car which is, of course, parked in the wrong spot. A cop, Robert (Andreas Lust), approaches the car. When Alex comes out he points his gun at Robert and makes Robert lay on the ground. Rather than grab Robert's gun, too, Alex drives off in the car, allowing Robert ample opportunity to get up and fire away.
This leads to tragic circumstances, sending Alex on a mission of revenge.
While hanging out on a family farm, chopping wood and waiting for his moment, Robert's lover, Susanne (Ursula Strauss), starts making passes on the bad-attitude Alex. Eventually Alex and Suzanne swap fluids, although Alex is the kind of indifferent, callous bloke who only gets laid in movies for meatheads. Rather than view his romping Robert's loved one as a sufficient synecdoche of revenge, Alex stays focus on Robert, although Alex was the one almost entirely responsible for the tragic outcome of the robbery.
As exacerbating and unrewarding as listening to film critics fawn over most of the films by Pedro Almodovar, Austria's Academy entry expects the viewer to care for its protagonist and rejoice in his rejuvenation when he has done nothing to warrant such affections.
This film could have been successful as a farce but, since it is a drama (and not a "reinvented genre piece"), I wish I had the opportunity to watch another film instead.
(Revanche screens Nov. 1, noon; Nov. 2, 10:15 p.m.)
For more information on AFI Fest 2008 please go to www.afi.com/onscreen/afifest/2008/