❉ Does this Scandi-noir thriller live up the promise of its intriguing premise? Iain MacLeod pines for the fjords.
Arriving only a couple of months after Coralie Fargeat’s identically titled French shocker the Norwegian drama Revenge also shares a similar premise, that of a woman gaining retribution for sexual violence. However, whilst Fargeat’s exercise in cinematic extremism was a gory critique of the male gaze and chauvinism the infinitely more subdued Hevn, to give it its original title, is sadly nothing more than an inessential contribution to the Scandi-noir category of world cinema.
Director Kjersti Steinsbø attempts to approach the subject of the trauma leading onto vengeance from a more psychological angle than you would find in your typical rape revenge film. Sadly, she never really gets into the head of the protagonist Rebekka, played by Siren Jorgensen, who after years of an assault on her sister decides to take revenge on the man she believes is responsible. The presumed attacker, Morten, Frode Winther, now lives in a small town in the fjords running a hotel with his wife and baby daughter, thereby giving Rebekka the idea of pretending to be a travel writer who is writing an article on their hotel, so she can gain up close and personal access to exact her own brand of justice. The premise is intriguing and full of the promise of a psychological thriller that could also deal with the issues of trauma, suspicion and resentment.
Sadly, Steinsbo, directing from her own co-written script, fails to delve further than the surface level into any of the issues the film raises or the characters themselves. The story never raises above the pace of the early scenes which show some promise when establishing the story. After the first act the film only really plods along at a cantering pace.
Visually the film never rises above the televisual level of your typical Scandinavian small screen drama. There is nothing really cinematic on offer here other than the beautiful locations that the drama unfolds against and relies on more and more as it goes along. As well as the visual flatness the script also fails to rise to the occasion, for instance a pair of characters who have the potential to take the film down their own interesting revenge related paths disappear from the narrative never to be mentioned again, just one example of the scripts dead ends it builds for itself.
Jorgensen plays Rebekka in an opaque style, whether this is through choice or all that the script and director had to offer is open to debate. Her calculated measures of revenge have the potential to expose and psychologically torture Morten but again the character work on display here offers nothing new and takes the easy way out narratively. In fact, there are an inordinately annoying number of narratively lazy loopholes that allow Rebekka off the hook instead of pinning her down in a more dramatic fashion that could have injected some real tension and drama into the storyline.
One of these loopholes occurring roughly halfway through the film, involving the small-town barman Bimbo, stretches the credibility of the story to breaking point. Sadly, as a viewer, I had ceased to care about the story and the characters by that point and found myself concentrating on the bottles on display in the background; I spotted a bottle of lovely looking Auchentoshan and below that a bottle of Midori. Then I started wondering if I drank the two of them together how much more psychologically, and physically, shattering that would be for myself than the half-baked, lazy drama unfolding on the screen. And I’m not really into Midori that much and that maybe I should just avoid such a situation in the future.
As you should probably avoid this film. You really won’t be missing that much. It demands nothing of the viewer, refusing to look into the sexual politics it raises and avoids the opportunity to psychologically look at the aggressors and victims of sexual assault in any meaningful way.
❉ ‘Revenge’ (Uncork’d Entertainment) opens theatrically Friday 17 August in L.A and other cities. Directed by Kjersti Steinsbø. Produced by Kristine Knudsen, Paul Barkin, Mark Gingras, Lisa G. Black. Screenplay by Kjersti Steinsbø. Based on Dukken i taket by Ingvar Ambjørnsen. Starring Siren Jørgensen, Frode Winther, Maria Bock, Anders Baasmo Christiansen. Running time 104 minutes.