Last fall the Criterion Collection and Janus Films joined forces to acquire a first-run film for theatrical distribution—a rare move for two companies best known for handling the classics of cinema history. Revanche, both an existential thriller and a quiet, character-driven rumination on fate and grief, is the ninth feature from Austrian director Götz Spielmann and the first theatrical release of a new film from Janus in decades. With its Academy Award nomination yesterday for Best Foreign Language Film, Revanche joins a long lineage of Janus first-run releases that have received attention from the Academy (from nominees Dodes’ka-denandThe Horse’s Mouth to winners Through a Glass DarklyandThe Virgin Spring).
“This all came together very organically,” Peter Becker, Criterion’s president, says. “Key members of the Criterion staff saw the film at Telluride, and they were really bowled over. Götz Spielmann is the real deal. He’s a completely commanding filmmaker with a powerful visual sense and an impeccable sense of timing. He is meticulous, patient, and deeply humane, but he is also full of surprises. He can wring suspense out of the simplest gestures, and the film takes some remarkable turns along the way.”
Though the film has all the ingredients of a classic crime flick, Spielmann’s real interest lies deeper than the caper put in motion by Alex (Johannes Krisch, in a stunning screen debut) and his prostitute girlfriend. “That’s the surface,” Spielmann says. “Deeper down, I hope, the film tells us about a kind of stillness behind things. It’s difficult to express that in words, because it refers to a realization, knowledge, or experience which begins beyond conscious thought and language.”
You’ll be hearing a lot more about Revanche, which Film Comment describes as “a potent, sympathetically observed tragedy” and AFI Fest on website called “the first Buddhist thriller,” when it comes to theaters this spring. Until then, check out the film’s official website, where you can find the trailer as well as more critics’ quotes, comments from the director, and info about prizes it has won at festivals around the world.