The posters I’d seen for REVENGE made it look like a typical revenge film but it’s actually much more than that. While there are plenty of films with a woman as the avenging hero what makes Kjersti G. Steinsbø’s HEVN, aka REVENGE, different is that it’s not action driven and unlike so many revenge films it was directed by a woman and most of the crew on the film were women too. And it makes a difference – trust me!
Based on Ingvar Ambjørnsen’s novel Dukken i taket (Doll in the Ceiling), REVENGE is a great mystery thriller that draws you in slowly and doesn’t let go.
From the opening scenes reminiscent of The Shining, Nordic drama REVENGE sets the atmosphere straight from the get go. We meet Rebekka as she arrives at a tranquil waterfront hotel, knife hidden in her bag and murder on her mind. Assuming a false identity as a travel writer she’s invited to stay at the hotel, owned by Morten (Frode Winther), the man who raped her 13 year old sister 20 years ago. She has the perfect opportunity to attack Morten but she decides to change her strategy and do a little more lasting damage.
Rebekka starts something of a friendship with Morten’s wife Nina (Maria Bock) and on one of their kayaking trips Rebekka tells her the story of what happened to her sister and her subsequent suicide. Nina is understanding, she knows a woman who went through the same thing and how even though she reported it, nothing happened. No consequences. This is a recurring theme.
The story of a woman out for revenge is definitely not new but what I found interesting was how thoughtful the characters were. In a genre that’s often reactionary and violent, REVENGE takes a quieter approach. Throughout the film we see Rebekka struggle with the decisions she’s about to make. Siren Jørgensen plays it beautifully and is so understated, it’s a quiet and measured performance.
Nina, who deep down seems to know the truth about her husband but sits quietly in denial until the proof is right in front of her eyes. The friend who turned a blind eye 20 years ago and even dismisses the recent claim of assault from a young woman who used to work at the bar Morten owns and who Rebekka befriends.
It’s interesting how often the men are seen in groups and seem to dominate everything from personal space to dismissing and controlling the women around them. I also appreciated the lack of graphic detail in regards to the sexual assault. I often say to my husband, “That’s how you know it was made by a woman.” As a rule, we don’t tend to revel in the violence of rape like a lot of directors do. And I often think it has more impact when it’s not shown in all its brutality.
The area the film was shot in is beautiful and lends itself so well to the mystery that dwells in this Nordic fjord. The muted color palette adds to the sense of guilt, shame and grief that Rebekka is going through. And much like the beautiful surroundings, darker things lurk beneath the surface in this quiet town.
REVENGE is now out theatrically in LA and other cities.