Revanche – The Two Sides of Vengeance

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:

Opening shot of the pond's reflection - Time Stamp: 1:36

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:

Hausner and Alex eating in front of the picture of Hausner's late wife - Time Stamp: 1:12:18

Alex grieving before Tamara's picture - Time Stamp: 1:12:28

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.

Alex speaks with Robert - Time Stamp: 1:49:17

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



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3 responses to “Revanche – The Two Sides of Vengeance

  1. alexfulton

    I think you made a really interesting point in your contrast between Hausner and Alex. The film definitely contrasts from typical revenge movies, like Taken, in the fact that it is more reflective and realistic. In the end, revenge isn’t the answer. In Taken, Bryan gets his revenge and then the story concludes with Bryan feeling at peace. It’s really not so simple in reality, and Revanche recognizes that. Even if Alex had taken revenge and killed Robert, it would not bring Tamara back.
    Hausner is like a model throughout the film. Instead of having a fruitless life, living in anguish over his wife’s death, he gains acceptance and lives peacefully. The film suggests that in reality, the difficult road to acceptance is more beneficial than the (only briefly satisfying) road to revenge.

  2. tylerlindley

    I think that your post raises many good points as well. However, one crucial difference between Taken and Revanche was that in Taken, Bryan’s actions were preventive, whereas Alex’s are ex post facto. Bryan is trying to save his daughter, and he is taking revenge in the sense that he is harming those who were responsible for her abduction to an unnecessary extent. Tamara, however, is already dead, so Alex really has no motivation for revenge except for the satisfaction of the revenge itself. It would be interesting to see what would have happened in Taken if Bryan’s daughter were murdered instead of taken, and Bryan knew that she was dead. If that were the case, he would have faced the same situation as Alex and it would have been interesting to see if he went and avenged his daughter or if he just accepted her death. One could even say, after all, that Bryan may be partly responsible because he allows her to go when he clearly knows it is not even remotely a good idea. If the abductors had murdered his daughter, would it have been right to forgive and accept, the same way that Alex does? Whether or not acceptance or revenge seems most appropriate for the situation interestingly seems to depend greatly upon the character of the perpetrator of the initial injustice.

  3. emroberts19

    I definitely agree that the character of Hausner provides an important contrast to Alex’s character. I also think that the character of Susanne might have an important part to play in Alex’s ultimate decision to not seek violent revenge on Alex. I thought that it was an interesting consideration that maybe Alex knows or suspects that Susanne is going to have his child? And perhaps that child is somehow going to play a role in his choice to stay and live in the country. But I definitely think that Alex realizes that Robert is just as caught up in the situation as he is.

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