Austrian writer-director Gotz Spielmann’s brooding contemporary fable brings together two couples from two very different environments, exploring how a traumatic event impacts emotionally on human lives. Ex-con Alex (Johannes Krisch) is a dogsbody at a Viennese brothel, who is secretly seeing one of the establishment’s prostitutes, the Ukrainian Tamara (Irina Potapenko). Needing cash fast to escape her pimp and to flee to Ibiza, Alex decides to rob a bank in a provincial community, near to where his widowed grandfather (Hannes Thanheiser) lives on a farm. Sheltering there after a tragically botched raid, Alex discovers that the old man’s neighbour Susanne (Ursula Strauss) is married to the very policeman Robert (Andreas Lust), who stumbled upon the robbery.
On paper Revanche reads an off-puttingly contrived affair, yet Spielmann is far more concerned with examining his characters than relying on plot twists to keep the viewer’s attention. The filmmaker takes his time in establishing the various individuals and their milieu – whether it’s the Viennese red-light district, the tranquil countryside, or the spotless bourgeois house belonging to Susanne and Robert – and this leisurely approach reaps real dividends. There’s no musical score either, allowing us to appreciate the sounds of the natural world, and the carefully controlled compositions of cinematographer Martin Gschlacht have a powerful starkness: certainly there’s an interesting counterpoint between these precise tableaux and the messiness of the emotions (guilt, fear, vengeance, loneliness, anger etc) experienced by the protagonists. Impressively acted by its ensemble cast, Revanche is an absorbing, sympathetic and appropriately open-ended work, and further proof of the vitality of current Austrian cinema.
GFT, Glasgow from Fri 30 Apr-Thu 6 May. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Wed 12-Mon 17 May.