Goetz Spielmann: Taking Revanche

True European Cinema at its Best - Where Exploitation, Retribution and Redemption Come Poignantly Together

Andreas Lust and Ursula Strauss in Revanche

Susanne (Ursula Strauss), a supermarket clerk and her police officer husband Robert (Andreas Lust) in the film, Revanche, by Austrian filmmaker Götz Spielman | Photo: Prisma Film

In just a few months since it’s May release, Revanche, by Austrian filmmaker Goetz Spielmann, has already won wide critical acclaim. Winner of eight film awards in Europe and the US, this absorbing drama of guilt and revenge is Spielmann’s strongest work to date, where exploitation, and accidental murder, retribution and redemption are woven together in a poignant narrative, while sustaining the thought-provoking tone of European art-house cinema.

“This is true European cinema at its best,” said the jury at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, where it was named the Best European Film in the Panorama section. They described it as “an authentic and uncompromised view of a corner of Europe – a very well made and dramatic film that we believe has the potential to grip audiences around Europe.”

Set against the contrasting backdrops of Vienna’s red light district and rural life in the small town of Gfohl, Revanche has many of the ingredients of a traditional ‘film noir’ narrative; Goetz Spielmann transposes and refines the plot and character of Hollywood and slows down the pace to create a subtle, poignant and thoroughly captivating  film  that will  be  put in on the roster of some 20 film festivals by year end.

At the beginning of the film we are shown two couples in their thirties – from city and countryside, apparently unconnected. However as the story unfolds we come to see how the lives of these characters are inextricably linked in complex ways. With well-drawn, engaging characters and uniformly strong performances, added to the vividness of Vienna and the Austrian countryside on the big screen – this is a film that comes to life on many levels.

We learn that Alex (Johannes Kirsch) is secretly carrying on an affair with an unhappy Ukrainian prostitute named Tamara (Irina Potapenko). Both determined to escape their current wretchedness: Alex wants to rescue Tamara and start up a restaurant business somewhere abroad. He devises a ‘foolproof’ plan to rob a bank in the sleepy rural town near his grandfather’s home.

Susanne (Ursula Strauss), a supermarket clerk and her police officer husband Robert (Andreas Lust) live in rural tranquility in a comfortable new house, with a nursery left empty following Susanne’s miscarriage. Their life, contented on the surface, hides the sterility of disappointment.

For Alex, robbing the sleepy local bank seems like a breeze, until Robert the policeman shows up and it all goes wrong.  Alex returns to his grandfather’s house to lie low. The 80 year old Herr Hausner (Hannes Thanheiser) is the most memorable character of all, impervious and good hearted, continuing to run the farm, driving his VW Beetle (albeit it slowly) to the shop and to church – where he has come to know Susanne – until he one day will join his deceased wife on the other side. It is Hausner who connects the characters together, in a way that is best left to be discovered in the cinema.

The management of tone is masterful:  Spielmann creates a powerful undercurrent of suspense from the film’s very first shot.  We are shown a lake whose smooth surface is disturbed by something falling in and causing ripples, we don’t know what has fallen in or who, if anyone, has caused this. The lake, woods, trails, light and weather are intentionally atmospheric and mood setting elements in the film that purposefully reinforce the narrative and characterization.

All in all, there is a dominance of the visual over verbal in this film, apart from when the grandfather plays his accordion music is deliberately absent. The cinematography equally captures the lurid night-life of the red light district as it does the magnificence of the dappled light in the forest, of brooding weather and of the changing of seasons. We are made conscious of the passing of time and of the chances it brings for redemption and renewal.

Revanche is an remarkable psychological portrait of the human condition and of flawed individuals. The entangled relationships between the characters are slowly drawn out over time and the films exquisite pacing allows the tragedy of the situation to speak for itself. Masterfully and subtly, Spielmann puts on the screen all the emotion that can ripple just beneath the surface of lives and personalities, near and felt, but unseen and out of reach.


No screenings currently in Vienna

Now showing at:

Kino Ebensee

4802 Ebensee, Schulgasse 6

(06133) 6308


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