Revanche is a film about a man’s path towards vengeance. The difference between this concept and those of the thousands of movies with similar plots, however, is that the path in Revanche diverges into two opposite roads. The film is certainly set up like any other revenged-themed flick. Alex robs a bank, encounters a cop in the process of getting away, and witnesses the cop kill his girlfriend. Alex proceeds to track down the cop with the intent of avenging his lover. However, unlike many other revenge films, Revanche does not simply have its protagonist reach or fail to reach his goal of achieving vengeance. Instead, Alex’s goal is transformed entirely by the end of the movie. This film shows uniqueness by exploring the alternative to revenge.
First of all, it is important to point out that the title of the film has a double meaning. The definition of “revanche” in German is both “revenge” and “rematch”, which can be translated to “second chance”. The two meanings of the film’s title reflects Alex’s dilemma at the film’s climax: he has the option to carry out his revenge, as well as the option to move on and accept what has happened to him. Note the following image, which was the very first shot of the film:
The reflection in the pond indicates this duality between the word “revanche”. It is as if its two definitions are the opposite sides of the same coin. This conveys the concept of the path towards vengeance being split into two roads as well. One road leads to the first definition, “revenge”. The other leads to “a second chance”, which in the context of this film, could be interpreted as “acceptance”. Revenge is a dark road that often produces bad results, so if one chooses to accept his or her circumstances rather than carry out revenge, he or she would get a second chance at avoiding that dark road and moving on with his or her life. These two choices, which are a reflection of each other, are consistently brought up during the film.
Acceptance and revenge are both shown and contrasted within the movie. Examine the following images:
Observe the similarities between these two screenshots. Both display men reacting to the pictures of their deceased lovers. Hausner is not phased at all. He peacefully eats his dinner in front of his late wife’s portrait. When Alex asks him if he misses her, Hausner responds with this remark:
The work alone! It’s depressing all right. But I’ll see her again. It won’t be long now.
Hausner shows complete acceptance for his unfortunate circumstances. He does not seek to carry out any sort of retribution on anything for what he has went through. This is heavily contrasted with the second image. Alex kneels in front of the picture of Tamara and looks down. His expression is clearly upset, and he has obviously not accepted what has happened to his lover. Unsettled, he immediately heads to the house of Robert, the cop who killed his girlfriend, to observe his enemy and contemplate the idea of taking revenge. Later on, when Susanna asks Alex about his previous girlfriend, he responds:
She was murdered. And the man who did it lives on…and all I ever think about is that I have to change that.
This shows the deep antithesis between Hausner and Alex. They are two men who respond in opposite ways to the things that have happened to them. Their choices reflect the split of the path towards vengeance and the duality of “revanche”: acceptance and revenge.
At the climax of the movie, Alex finally comes to the fork in the road. He has the opportunity to kill Robert, but ends up choosing not to. It may seem odd that a character who was so set on taking out revenge during the whole movie would decide against it, but Robert’s dialogue from his conversation with Alex gives insight to the choice. When Alex asks Robert if he is afraid that the robber will come to kill him, Robert replies with:
Let him. But there’s one thing I’d ask him…why he took her along in the first place. She wasn’t driving, wasn’t helping him escape…it doesn’t make sense. The whole mess happened because she was there for no reason.
With that, Alex allows Robert to leave. Again, this choice is strange. The whole movie seemed to keep building and building on Alex getting his revenge. By this point in the story, Robert’s death was expected. However, Robert’s speech brought a realization to Alex. Perhaps he changed his mind upon seing that Robert was truly remorseful. Maybe the thought that he himself was also responsible for Tamara’s untimely death really sunk in. More likely, he realized that Tamara’s death was really nobody’s fault. Alex had good intentions for robbing the bank, and Robert truly did not mean to kill Tamara. Alex was just the victim of misfortune. He throws his gun into the pond, causing a ripple in the water’s reflection, symbolizing the shattering of one choice and path. Alex chooses acceptance over revenge.
Clearly, the path towards vengeance is split into two choices: carrying out revenge or accepting your misfortunes and moving on. Alex makes his decision to accept what had happened to Tamara and get a second chance at living without falling into the vicious cycle of revenge. Ultimately, this film shows an interesting characteristic of revenge. Humans instinctively look for a source to blame when they are wronged, and develop a need for righting this wrong with vengeance. However, there is not always something to blame. Unfortunate circumstances can take place without anybody being at fault. People can either accept this fact, like Hausner, or blindly seek retribution, like Alex. Revanche shows that there are two sides to vengeance, and the choice of what path we take is often decided with instinct rather than rationality.
– Ryan Passer