Revenge ★★

The title is misleading. This is not revenge, and the film is not subversive. It's for the most part a straight genre film using rape as a backdrop.

Spoilers ahead:

There is no satisfaction to be had, because there is no actual (cinematic) revenge. Jen is raped and left for dead, but she doesn't come back for a "manhunt" which the misleading plot summary says. It's more of a fight to the death, where the men who already raped and tried to kill her get to hurt her even more (and for the most part, it's the men who hunt her). They fight, and by chance the men are the ones who end up dead. Jen’s body is shown as violated and mutilated, but when the time comes for her supposed revenge, the same does not happen to the men’s bodies. Sure, there’s the knife in the eye and shard of glass in the foot, but this does not come close to comparing to what is done to Jen. Not to mention the complete lack of sexual humiliation of the men, which entirely undermines any feeling that this is a true revenge. Enjoying this as a straight-up genre film is fine if that is what you like (for me it's completely uninteresting), but claiming that it goes beyond that, or that it’s somehow feminist, just does not add up.

Some have written about how the film subverts its own initial male gaze. It does not. Granted, the men die, and the last man standing is naked. But the camera never turns him into an object as it does Jen countless times. It would be an obvious opportunity to do just that when he undresses and goes to shower, but the camera stays back - showing him as a whole body rather than turning him into the object. The close-ups of him consistently focus on his face, while the camera focuses on Jen’s legs, butt, back and stomach throughout the film. Having read positive reviews on this I was a bit surprised by how Fargeat again and again misses out on the opportunity to subvert the male gaze. Are these cinematic conventions so ingrained in us that we see everything as subversion? Stan is shown as an equal in the fight and is never reduced to his body even though he is naked. Showing his extreme rage as impotent and ultimately not enough to win does not subvert anything, it simply says “he lost”. While Jen might “win” in some ways in the film’s narrative, she’s never given the chance to combat or conquer the film’s gaze.

Even though the film didn't succeed as a whole I enjoyed parts of it: the dream sequence in the cave stood out to me, revealing a filmmaker with a vision who may be willing to do something radical with the medium. Not showing the rape was also an important decision. Unfortunately, the rest of the film was not up to par.

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