Nominated for the 2009 Best Foreign Film Oscar, Austrian writer-director Götz Spielmann's psychological crime drama sees the futures of two disparate couples – a prostitute and her boyfriend, and a policeman and his wife - altered forever by an ill-fated robbery. With performances to match Spielmann's consummate staging, this is a quietly captivating story of consequence and coincidence.
A largely bleak tale of crime and (psychological) punishment from an Austrian auteur, Revanche was bound to draw comparisons to the work of Europe's premier killjoy, Michael 'Funny Games' Haneke.
But while levity is in short supply (the only 'comedy' involves a lame practical joke with a gun), Götz Spielmann shows his characters something that Haneke rarely does: compassion.
It presents two couples with different problems. Ex-con Alex (the taciturn Johannes Krisch) and his Ukrainian girlfriend Tamara (Irina Potapenko) work in a Vienna brothel - he as a dogsbody; she as a prostitute.
Their relationship is a secret, but when the boss almost finds out, Alex decides to bring forward their planned escape to Spain by robbing a bank. With an unloaded gun, of course.
The only thing keeping Alex in Austria is his frail grandfather who lives alone on a farm - not far from respectable cop Robert (Andreas Lust) and his wife Susanne (Ursula Strauss). Their issue, however, is not one of finance, but fertility. They can't have children.
Their lives and problems converge in the aftermath of Alex's bank job. To elaborate further would be to give away the plot's most unexpected development.
Not that this a wildly twisting mystery; it's not difficult to anticipate most of the subsequent surprises. Spielmann, however, is less concerned about where his characters end up than how they get there.
What emerges is an intriguing study of guilt, remorse and, as the title translates, revenge. But Spielmann clearly believes that these emotions are both the cause and effect of another: impotence. Physical and mental, literal and metaphorical, the director presents human frustration in all its forms.
Which might sound naff, but from pacing and composition to its frank attitude to sex and wonderfully open performances, the film is a largely pretension-free zone.
A fine lesson in the art of storytelling.