M. Keith Booker
Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge (2017) gives the revenge film an important update by adding a heavy dose of feminist self-consciousness, as well as a significant upgrade in production values. Here, rich-and-handsome Richard (Kevin Janssens) helicopters to his desert villa, accompanied by his nymphet-like mistress, Jen (Matilda Lutz). Through a mix-up in scheduling, they are joined there by his two friends, Stan and Dimitri (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède), though Richard had not intended for the stays of Jen and the two men to overlap. From this point forward, the plot of the film is typical rape-revenge far, but the film itself is anything but typical. Overcome by Jen’s sexiness, Stan rapes her while Richard is momentarily away from the villa; Dimitri has a chance to intervene, but decides not to. Afterward, the three men try to bribe Jen to stay quiet about what happened. When she seems uncooperative, they try to kill her. She proves unexpectedly resourceful, however, and ends up killing all three of them in a bloody campaign of revenge.
Despite the banal and somewhat predictable plot, Revenge is an extraordinary film. The filmreminded most reviewers of the tradition of rape-revenge thrillers such as Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) and the even more graphic Spit on Your Grave (1978), possibly the most notorious film ever to inspire an entire franchise. However, from the very beginning, it is clear that, visually and stylistically, Revenge has very little in common with these rough-hewn predecessors, which had made a virtue of low-budget necessity by using their grainy cinematography and amateurish acting to create atmosphere for their scenes of violence. From its beautiful opening shot of a panoramic desert landscape, to the views of the gorgeous, ultramodern villa, to the presentation of the scenes of bloody violence themselves, Revenge itself is exquisitely shot (by cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert), brilliantly acted, and well-crafted in every way. In this sense, it is clearly much more in the spirit of something like Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, which Fargeat has cited as an influence, than I Spit on Your Grave, which she claims not to have seen. Fargeat’s film, meanwhile, also shows the clear influence of the New French Extremity movement in the extreme gore of its bloody violence. However, the feminist politics of Revenge are much stronger than in Tarantino’s film or in almost any other New French Extremity film.
While viewing that opening panorama, we gradually hear the whirring of helicopter blades, almost like the opening of Apocalypse Now. Then we see, in the far distance, an approaching dot that gradually resolves into a helicopter that flies straight toward and then over the camera, which shoots it from below. A strangely tinted shot of the landscape gives it an almost surreal feel—reinforced by the eerie opening music. Then the camera pulls back a bit to reveal that this new shot is a reflection in the mirrored sunglasses of the man who will turn out to be Richard. Sitting just behind him and to his right, also in sunglasses, is Jen, sucking on a lollipop, which emphasizes her youth. She looks, in fact, very much like Lolita when she is first spotted sunbathing by Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (1962), a shot that was memorialized on the film’s poster.[i] The lollipop, though, is also clearly meant to be suggestive of oral sex, and it is no coincidence that Jen performs fellatio on Richard literally within a minute after he enters the villa, to which they are flying in the helicopter.
The next shot, carefully composed from inside the astonishing villa through a glass wall, shows the helicopter landing on the ground outside. Green fields in the background suggest that the setting isn’t quite as arid as it first appeared, while we see enough of the villa to make it clear that this is a luxurious abode of the rich. The view through that glass wall looks almost like a painting. As Jen descends from the copter in her short, sexy skirt and bare midriff top, the camera lingers sensually on her smooth, tanned thighs, already announcing the way in which Jen will be the focus of a textbook case of the male gaze in the opening segments of the film. She gives Richard a flirtatious smile over her shoulder as she heads inside the villa, looking around her with approval, while Richard says farewell outside to the pilot, who slips him some peyote before flying away. Both sex and drugs have already been introduced into the equation, and it appears that Richard and Jen are in for the kind of decadent retreat that only the very wealthy can afford. Or, to be more precise, Richard is in for that kind of retreat; Jen is merely another of the luxuries that his wealth allows him to have.
When Richard goes inside the villa, Jen is already waiting in a sensuous pose, half Lolita and half Barbarella. She immediately presents herself to him for sex. He spins her around, lifts up her skirt, and gives us our first good look at her ass—which will in many ways be the star of the film’s first half hour. It is clear that she is playing her expected role, and one might wonder at this point if she is a high-class prostitute. However, he tells her, in English, that she drives him completely crazy, which makes her seem more like a girlfriend. Without a word, she drops to her knees, unzips his pants, and begins to perform fellatio—before she has even spoken a word in the film. A cut to the very next scene shows Richard, naked, talking that night (in French) on the telephone with his wife. Jen lies alone in the bed that Richard has clearly just left to take his wife’s phone call, looking decidedly unhappy. It’s a classic moment: the cheating husband goes away for a romp with his beautiful young girlfriend, but remains moored to his wife and children, leaving the girlfriend in a precarious situation.
It could be a setup for a romantic comedy, though everything about the film’s first few moments suggests that it will be more serious. When Richard returns to bed, Jen remains turned with her back to him, pouting. He exhales in frustration at the situation. “Everything would be so simple if the kids weren’t there,” he says, suggesting that, were it not for the children, he would leave his wife for Jen in a heartbeat. But then he follows that statement with an addition that perhaps tell us more about his real attitude toward Jen: “And if you didn’t have such a nice ass,” he says.
We might expect her to smack him at this point. Instead, she seems pleased when he starts to fondle the body part in question, and she smiles and giggles when he calls it “my little, juicy, peachy ass,” apparently glad that Richard’s attention has shifted back to her and away from his family. Then, Richard adds a bizarre bit of extra objectification by suggesting that her ass is “like a little alien coming from another planet.” She then turns toward him and they start to kiss. Their faces are encircled on the screen by a disc of light that sets their faces apart from their darker surroundings, then the disc fades into a shot of the full moon. It’s a self-consciously romantic bit of cinemagic—so self-conscious that it seems contrived, suggesting that their relationship might not exactly be one of true love.
Cut to the next day. A shot of a robot vacuum cleaning the villa’s striking pool is followed by a shot from one of the pool itself, showing that it overlooks tilled fields, with a stunning mountainscape in the distance. It becomes more and more clear just how luxurious this setting really is. The film was, as it turns out, shot in a real villa in Morocco, but the exquisite house looks almost too perfect to be real. The effect is to give the film the air of a parable, set in a sort of alternate reality that does not necessarily correspond to any specific place on earth. Indeed, the film carefully avoids any mention of place names, thus enhancing this fairy-tale effect. The impeccably decorated house, with its expensive furnishings and sleek, modern electronics, is like a consumerist paradise, filled with emblems of wealth, almost like hunting trophies (a connection that is reinforced by the fact that the men have come there for a hunting trip in the surrounding desert).
These consumerist resonances also help to emphasize the way in which Richard and the other men in the film regard Jen as just another commodity, just another perk of Richard’s obvious wealth. Richard and Jen are, after all, already in their second day at the villa when the other men arrive, and we have yet to hear her speak a word, yet to see her display any real qualities except a self-conscious awareness of just how sexy she is. Jen, in the film’s early scenes, seems extremely comfortable with her body and her sexuality, very much aware of her effect on men and more than willing to participate in her own sexual objectification. Yet she seems very much unaware of the implications of that objectification.
In the next sequence, we see Jen strutting about the villa in a red bikini bottom and pink cutoff T-shirt, imprinted with the slogan “I ❤️ L.A.” The camera virtually fondles her buttocks as she walks jauntily about the villa, still not having spoken. Her first utterance is a gasp as she bites sensuously into an apple, then turns to look outside and is surprised to see an armed man looking at her through the glass wall. Then a second armed man arrives, and Jen calls out for Richard, finally speaking for the first time in the film. Richard walks in, sees the men, and is clearly exasperated, but not alarmed. The men, of course, are Stan and Dimitri. He introduces the young woman to them, in English: “Jennifer. Just a friend.” Stan and Dimitri exchange glances that suggest they know just what kind of friend she is. Richard introduces Stan and Dimitri as “my associates,” at which Jen smiles at them and says, “Hi.” Her first actual word in the film, more than eight minutes in, is a mere platitude. Then finally she speaks in sentences, though still ones with little content: “I’ll leave you guys to it. I’m gonna go take a shower.” As she walks away, the camera clearly assumes the gaze of Dimitri and Stan as they stare at her receding ass, no doubt imagining what she is going to look like in that shower. And she knows it.
Now that Jen has finally spoken, we realize that she speaks essentially unaccented American English, though there might be just a hint of an unidentifiable accent there, and there are other hints in the film that she is not from America, preserving the indistinct geographical indications of the film[ii]. For example, she indicates later in the film that her dream is to fly away to Los Angeles, because “everything is possible there. Everything goes faster. And you can be noticed in no time.” It is clear that she wears the T-shirt, not to indicate that she is from L.A., but to indicate that L.A. is her dream locale, and that she hopes to go there to “get noticed,” as so many young women—like Naomi Watts’s[iii] young Betty at the beginning of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001)—have headed there in the hope of being discovered. That the film is roughly half in English and half in French also reinforces the fable-like quality of the film, joining with the nonspecific nature of the characters’ names to contribute to the sense that this film is not taking place within the reality of any particular national or cultural setting. It should be noted, though, that the three men speak almost exclusively in French among themselves, even in front of Jen, suggesting their lack of regard for the young woman, who appears to understand only English—which all of the men are perfectly capable of speaking.[iv]
The nonspecific geography of this film, by the way, is perfectly appropriate and has a thematic function: the film is not set within any particular geographic milieu but is instead set within the world of contemporary consumer capitalism. That world, at this point, is entirely global. Jen’s early objectification can be taken as a comment on patriarchal attitudes toward women—attitudes that go back even further than the Roman gladiators. But her portrayal also has a specifically consumerist slant, especially given her surroundings in the luxurious villa, where she becomes just one more element of the expensive décor. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that Stan ultimately rapes her. He does not regard her as a person, but as a thing; and, within the ideology of consumerism, things are to be desired and then possessed.
Whether or not Jen means to imply that she hopes to become an actress in L.A., it is clear that she likes to be noticed. And she makes very sure that all three men do notice her as she flounces about the villa for the next ten minutes or so. The camera does its part, lingering on her scantily-clad body as if mimicking the gazes of the men. It should be emphasized that there is nothing in the least bit slutty about the way Jen carries herself during this segment of the film. Jen trusts Richard and is comfortable with him; she is also happy to be on display for his friends, assuming that Richard will be pleased and proud to have his friends see his prize possession. It is clear at this point that, while Jen might be a sexually experienced would-be homewrecker, she is also quite innocent. She knows men like to look at her, but she does not fully realize what is behind those looks. She will receive a rude awakening soon enough.
For his part, Richard seems proud to have her on display, like a trophy from the hunting trip that his friends have to come to the villa to undertake with him. Her role as trophy is further emphasized in one scene in which Dimitri, though sitting ten feet away from Jen beside the villa’s pool, looks at her through his hunting binoculars, so that he can get a close-up view, especially of her lips, but also casting her in the role of one of the animals they are preparing to hunt. Meanwhile, the fact that the men are on a hunting trip at all suggests that they are in a mood to demonstrate their masculine power over weaker creatures. In addition, the fact that American professional wrestling plays on the television while the three men party with Jen suggests the way in which the villa is at this point drenched in testosterone, while the fact that one of the wrestlers is dressed as a gladiator emphasizes that such masculine contests have a long cultural history (as well as the fact that there is something inauthentic about them).
Jen even entertains the men during their party by dancing seductively for them beside the pool, even enticing Stan to join her after Richard declines. Stan clearly regards it as a sexual invitation, though Jen just as clearly sees it as innocent fun. He stands there, grinning, while she undulates around him like he’s a stripper pole. She likes that men notice her and has no idea how thoroughly these three men, at least, are objectifying her, partly because she trusts Richard to respect her. The song (played on the villa’s deluxe sound system) to which she and (ultimately) Stan dance is a high energy mix of hip hop and electronic dance music called “Dance Like Machines,” by the French DJ Brodinski. This song has the kind of high energy for which French DJs have become famous in recent years, though it also has an international flavor. Vocals are supplied by Dutch rapper Faberyayo, who sounds very American, while the music itself would be equally at home in clubs in Paris, London, Amsterdam, New York, or West Amman. In addition, the music has a very manufactured quality, which fits in nicely with the exploration of consumerism in the film. Finally, the music is designed simply to be danced to, its minimal lyrics (including lines such as “Cyborgs and androids dance like machines”) being very much beside the point—though one line (“shit’s about to go down”) does seem prophetic given what is about to happen in the film[v].
Finally, Stan starts to dance as well, while Jen rubs against him, which finally causes Richard to intervene. He grabs Jen and throws her over his shoulder, carrying her off to their bedroom, caveman-style, as the film cuts back to the professional wrestling on the television. It’s a clear declaration of ownership on the part of Richard, and it clearly makes Stan envious. The next morning, Jen wakes up alone and finds that Richard has gone away to give the men’s passports to the gamekeeper. A close-up of the apple bitten into by Jen earlier, shows the exposed flesh turning brown, while an ant crawls onto it, suggesting (maybe a bit too symbolically) that all is not right in this Edenic world.
As Jen is dressing, Stan walks in and gets a look at her entirely naked. She handles it gracefully, but she is clearly embarrassed. Stan, clueless, does not seem to realize that he has crossed a line. He sits on the bed beside her and starts creepily hitting on her, even giving her his business card so that she can perhaps call him some time so they can “do a thing or two” together. As she tries to fend him off, he gets more and more aggressive and insulting. He very crudely suggests that she had been “dying for it” the day before, “coming on to be like a pussy in heat.” When he starts to rape her, she is so stunned and terrified that she hardly resists. Nothing has prepared her for this moment, and Fargeat has carefully crafted the scene to ensure that any non-pathological viewer will strongly sympathize with Jen and be revolted by the disgusting Stan. There is no question at all of her having “asked for it,” despite her behavior the night before. She screams as Stan rapes her; Dimitri turns on the television (now a car race, another masculine image, is on the screen) to drown out her screams so he can relax in the pool in peace. But even the rape scene is artfully shot: from outside the villa, we see Jen’s anguished face pressed against the window, which reflects the beautiful landscape—and Dimitri diving into the gorgeous pool. The contrast between the beauty of the exterior scene and the horror of the interior makes the shot all the more powerful.
Jen, while she has contributed to her own commodification, has clearly not realized how thoroughly this phenomenon has led the men to dehumanize her. When Stan rapes her, she is shocked and humiliated, but she still assumes that Richard will avenge her when he returns. It is only when he appears merely to be mildly annoyed with Stan for raping her that she begins to understand the truly low regard in which the men, including Richard, hold her. When Richard tries to buy her off to keep her quiet about the attack, transferring cash into an account for her and offering to set her up with a job in Canada (which, he points out, is “practically in Los Angeles”), she begins further to awaken to the true situation. Shockingly, he urges her not to be selfish: “Think about me,” he callously tells her. He clearly believes that she, like any commodity, can be bought for his convenience. But it is only when she refuses his offer and threatens to tell his wife everything that he shows the full extent of his lack of regard for her. He slaps her, knocking her to the floor, then calls her a “little whore,” which is, of course, pretty much how he has thought of her all along. It’s a moment almost as shocking as the rape—and almost as damaging to Jen.
When she tries to run away, Richard chases her down and pushes her off a cliff. She lands, impaled on an upward pointing tree branch that passes completely through her midsection. As she lies there, skewered, there seems no chance that she will survive. Richard, appearing more and more despicable, returns to the villa and burns Jen’s things to destroy all evidence of her having been there. Then he calmly calls his wife “just to hear her voice.” When Stan tries to apologize about Jen, Richard says he never heard of her.
What happens next, back at the bottom of the cliff, defies belief and takes the film out of the realm of the crime drama or even the rape-revenge thriller and into the realm of archetype and myth, of parable and fantasy. This point also is where Revenge veers into slasher film territory as Jen proves preternaturally durable and essentially unkillable, while she doggedly tracks down and kills one after another of her tormentors. Blood drips copiously from Jen’s broken body, threatening to drown ants on the ground below. Other ants crawl onto her body, seeking food, as if to recycle her body for nature. Yet she manages to retrieve her lighter and break free of the tree by burning it down. Flames fly into the sky like something in a pagan ritual. Jen crawls away, the remains of the branch still protruding through her body.
When the men return to dispose of her body, they are shocked to find it gone, just as Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis are shocked to discover that the body of Michael Myers has disappeared at the end of Halloween. Thus begins the final hour of the film as the men follow the trail of blood she has left behind, expecting she will be easy prey. They couldn’t be more wrong. After they lose the trail and split up to search for her more effectively, she kills Dimitri in high slasher fashion with a swift stab of a hunting knife into his right eye socket. After he dies, she removes the knife for later use. She will then kill Stan and Richard, reversing the trajectory of Mrs. Voorhees in Friday the 13th by killing the men in the order of how seriously they have wronged her, from least to most. The last hour of Revenge is as bloody and brutal as anything ever put on film, the violence represented in graphic fashion, despite the mythic intonations of this sequence.
During this hour, incidentally, Jen remains scantily clad, but her body no longer serves as fodder for the male gaze. Scarred, burned, and bloodied, it is now a formidable killing machine, and the camera now emphasizes its power, rather than its sexuality. She still wears the large, pink, dangling, star-shaped earrings that had earlier served to highlight her youthful sexuality, but that now serve as an ironic reminder that those days are behind her, the change being further emphasized when Stan shoots off part of her right ear, taking the earring with it.
Anesthetized by that peyote, Jen finally removes the tree branch that has been protruding from her abdomen all this time like some sort of grotesque penis. She then cauterizes the wound with the heated metal from an unrolled beer can, which leaves the eagle[vi] logo from the can and the words “Mexican Beer” emblazoned on her stomach. This impossible event enhances the sense that the film has now entered the realm of fantasy, while the fact that she is now literally branded serves as an ironic reminder of her former status as a mere commodity. She recovers for a while, then sets out to complete her mission of retribution, beginning with Stan. We already realize that Stan is a coward and an idiot, so it certainly comes as no surprise that she vanquishes him easily, though Fargeat does present us with some surprising set pieces along the way, beginning with a moment when Richard appears to blow Jen’s head off with a shotgun, followed by an entire sequence of other nightmarish images, only to have her awake from an actual nightmare. Also notable is the protracted (and preposterously gory) scene in which Stan pulls a shard of glass out of his foot (put there via a booby trap set by Jen), which is both stomach-turning and oddly comic in its excess. It’s only one of several wounds Stan suffers, blubbering and crying the whole time, before Jen finally blows out his brains with Dimitri’s rifle.
All of the action in the desert is gorgeously photographed, yet we also know that the desert is a dangerous place, much like the Terrible Place described by Clover. “The desert is sublime, but merciless with the careless,” as Richard says at one point. Interestingly, though, the final showdown between Jen and Richard occurs not in the desert, but back in that pristine villa, surrounded by the trappings of consumerism. This, too, we realize, is a Terrible Place. Richard returns to the villa, washes his face in the beautiful pool, then goes inside and plops down, still filthy, on the fancy couch, placing himself, ironically enough, just below a painting of the Virgin Mary that hangs on the wall[vii]. He calls his helicopter pilot and orders a pickup, then goes to take a shower, preparing to return to civilization. Jen’s return ruins his plans, leading to a lengthy (and incredibly bloody battle) as they move about the villa, fighting to the death and leaving the exquisite abode smeared with what looks like impossible amounts of Richard’s blood. As if it weren’t already clear that consumerism provides a crucial context for the events of the film, throughout the last battle, a U.S. shopping channel plays on the villa’s television. Their frequently repeated motto—“Shop Club USA, where deals are simply irresistible”—describes the attractions of their offerings in clearly sexual terms, capping off the links between consumerism and sexuality that have run throughout the film.
Jen’s first shot on her return wounds the naked Richard (who has just stepped out of the shower) and sends his blood flying across the couch and onto the painting of the Virgin Mary, who now looks like blood is oozing from her mouth, cleverly (but possibly blasphemously) quoting the long legacy of Virgin Mary statues and paintings that have been rumored to weep blood or other liquids. This moment can also be taken as a slap at the patriarchal legacy of Catholicism and all it has contributed to what Jen has endured in this film. There’s also a moment verging on humor when Richard wraps his wounded abdomen in plastic wrap from the kitchen to staunch the bleeding, but in general these last few moments are extremely tense as the two combatants slip and slide through the labyrinthine villa, now lubricated with Richard’s blood. Richard finally gets the upper hand and seems on the verge of killing Jen, but first he has to stop to give her a lecture on what a pain in the ass women are, which gives her a chance to turn the tables and blast him with Dimitri’s rifle. In the end, he lies dead, his bare ass exposed in an obscene reversal of all those ass-shots of Jen in the first part of the film. For her own part, Jen, bloody but victorious, walks slowly out of the villa as the helicopter arrives, presumably to take her back to safety. As the film ends, she looks directly into the camera, reversing the male gaze one last time.
Revenge received mostly positive reviews, some of them absolutely glowing. Other critics were not impressed, however, especially those who were turned off by the extreme level of violence. Some, for example, saw it merely as a rehashing of films such as I Spit on Your Grave—and not in a good way.Hannah Woodhead, meanwhile, hoped the film would be a subversive reimagining of the rape-revenge film, but found that it fell short, partly because Jen is not depicted in more detail as a distinct, realistic character. For her, “rather than breathing life into a stagnant subgenre, Revenge disappointingly offers more of the same.”
Manuela Lazic, on the other hand, argues that Fargeat clearly demonstrates that “Jen isn’t a doll, all beautiful surface and flexible limbs, but a real, live person susceptible to pain.” Indeed, Lazic sees Revenge as “the revenge movie to end all revenge movies.” Similarly, Max Weinstein highly praises the film, which he sees as a triumph, marked by a number of brilliant touches:
Apart from Revenge‘s intriguing gender and sexual politics, what shines through are Fargeat’s clear feel for the heft and weight of expertly crafted action sequences, absurdist sense of timing that steers the horrific into the realm of the comedic, and discerning visual design that makes star attractions of neon-tinted wardrobe accessories, dust-blown cat-and-mouse chases, and an all-white living room that, when soaked in gallons of blood, turns into a sanguinary Slip ‘N Slide.
Aline Dolinh was also effusive in her praise for the film, which she sees as being all the more powerful for the way it carefully remains within the boundaries of the rape-revenge movie, at the same time subtly subverting it. For her, the film “provides a stunning validation of female rage and retribution in a way that our culture rarely does.”
In the end, it is clear that Jen misjudged the men she was with, but they quickly learn that they have misjudged Jen as well. She has perhaps also underestimated herself, and her rapid transformation from sex kitten to formidable avenger after her rape and attempted murder is a remarkable one—somewhat like that of Sarah Conner between The Terminator and Terminator II, though more rapid. Indeed, the transformation is so rapid that it is perhaps no transformation at all. Perhaps the tough, strong Jen was there all along but simply didn’t know it because she had been taught all her life to be alluring and pliable. One of the cultural forms that perpetuates this image of women as weak and passive is, of course, the slasher film, and in this sense Revenge flips that genre on its head. It is almost as if Marion Crane had regained consciousness, crawled out of that swamp, then found the strength to stalk and kill Norman Bates. In the end, Jen emerges, not as a Final Girl, but as a Final Woman.
Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Updated Edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.
Dolinh, Aline. “Finding Feminist Catharsis in the Rape-Revenge Film.” Film School Rejects (n.d.). https://filmschoolrejects.com/finding-feminist-catharsis-in-the-rape-revenge-film/. Accessed February 19, 2019.
Lazic, Manuela. “Revenge Is the Revenge Movie to End All Revenge Movies.” The Ringer (May 31, 2018). https://www.theringer.com/movies/2018/5/31/17411766/revenge-coralie-fargeat-review. February 19, 2019.
Slotek, Jim. “Revenge: A French Feminist Grindhouse Movie, Fuelled by Peyote.” Original Cin (May 8, 2018). https://www.original-cin.ca/posts/2018/5/9/revenge-a-feminist-french-grindhouse-movie-fuelled-by-peyote. Accessed February 19, 2019.
Weinstein, Max. “Desert Eagle: How Coralie Fargeat Shot Revenge in the Moroccan Desert, Preserved Her Creative Freedom, and More.” MovieMaker (). https://www.moviemaker.com/archives/moviemaking/directing/desert-eagle-how-coralie-fargeat-shot-revenge-in-the-moroccan-desert-preserved-her-creative-freedom-and-more/. Accessed February 19, 2019.
Woodhead, Hannah. “Revenge.”
Little White Lies (n.d.). https://lwlies.com/reviews/revenge/.
Accessed February 19, 2019.
[i] Fargeat has stated in interviews that she had Lolita in mind as a model for Jen’s character at the beginning of the film.
[ii] Some reviewers interpreted Jen as being an American, though I think that is inaccurate. For example, Jim Slotek, who calls Revenge a “French feminist grindhouse movie,” sees her as an American “and a stereotypical American at that.” However, I think she is stereotypically American because she acts out American characteristics learned from popular culture (and perhaps wants to be an American, not because she is literally American.
[iii] Ironically, Lutz in this film was just coming off a starring role in the horror film Rings (2017), the second sequel to The Ring (2002), which had starred Watts (who was just coming off her career-making performance in Mulholland Drive.
[iv] Fargeat has also admitted in an interview that the addition of English was designed to make the film more marketable internationally, thus making it easier to acquire funding. Lutz, an Italian actress with an American father, speaks French and could have performed in that language, though her almost perfect unaccented American English was certainly an asset in adding this multilingual element to the film.
[v] The official music video for the song (found at https://youtu.be/ZHcT33gb9bY) is built around scantily-clad female dancers undulating on an actual stripper pole, which gives some idea of the resonance of the music.
[vi] Given Jen’s circumstances, it might make sense to think of it as a Phoenix, given her circumstances. However, given the importance of the eagle in Mexican iconography, that interpretation seems more likely.
[vii] The painting is a version of the 1859 work The Virgin with the Crown, by French Neo-classical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, though the colors appear to have been altered, giving it an almost postmodern look.