Matilda Lutz plays Jen, a young woman who accompanies her older (and married) boyfriend on vacation, only to be unexpectedly joined by his male hunting buddies. Her youth and beauty make her the center of attention. The spotlight Jen basks in soon glares into a target as she finds male privilege demands a woman who is flirty and fun with her sexuality to give in to unwanted sexual demands — while no man, not even her boyfriend, is interested in protecting her.
The film’s gaze is feminine. There is no slut shaming of Jen—no judgment that she is the “other woman.” She sincerely loves her boyfriend. And there is no judgment that she is unashamed and playful about her sexuality. The film makes clear at every step that she in no way deserves nor incites the violence she is put through.
She goes from object of desire to victim of violence and rises again as warrior to bring herself the justice against the very archetypes of societal abuse: the privileged handsome man who gets everyone he wants, the one who sees but does nothing, and the one without perceived power who desires it at any cost…
We talked about all of this and more with Fargeat and Lutz so settle in and read on!
Revenge is out TODAY in limited theaters and on VOD courtesy of Shudder and Neon.
DREAD CENTRAL: Tell us how the idea for this film came about because it’s unusual for a rape-revenge film…
CORALIE FARGEAT: The idea was not really to make a rape and revenge [film]; the first idea was really to make a revenge movie, a real genre film, that would go one hundred percent genre. The idea really built around the idea of the character, of this girl, who would be seen as very weak and empty because she presents herself in a certain way and would be considered the girl who could be swept off very easily. Building her whole transformation and — kind of mold — taking a new skin on her and becoming a very strong character. So all the elements built around that, and it was more the idea to build a very strong heroine and character. In such movies that I like, like Kill Bill or Mad Max or Rambo, where the character is brought to a new life and also in a very phantasmagoric visual atmosphere. I wanted to escape the traditional horror-film-in-the-forest, with the girl screaming all the time, that was not at all what I wanted to do, so I chose those elements to build this narrative.
DREAD CENTRAL: Have you studied slasher films at all? Because what you’ve done is take your revenge film and made her a final girl. Did you explore slasher tropes at all? Final girls involve transformation based on the violence they go through.
CF: I think, for me, the icon of the “Lolita” is very polarizing because on one side she’s very attractive and she attracts all the gazes on her, and that’s exactly the reason why the guys think they can do whatever they want. I think if there wasn’t this attraction and this play with her, they wouldn’t feel allowed to go that far and to think that she’s worth nothing. And I think the two sides are very related — and this is for me the problem, that the male gaze is projecting those kind of weaknesses and being taken for granted because she presents herself a certain way. I didn’t understand what you meant by the “final girl” trope; what is that?
DREAD CENTRAL: In slasher films like Friday the 13th, the main male villain goes after the girl-next-door. Here, she’s slightly different — in your movie, your main character is very sexy, cute, frilly, with her little star earring. In a typical slasher film, the male slasher is going after a final girl who is pure, and then at some point, based on all the violence and the horror that she’s seen and survived, she has to make a stand for herself and defeat the killer. It’s sort of a chase: He’s chasing her, but in a rape-revenge, as in movies like I Spit on Your Grave or Ms. 45 or Baise-Moi, the women are in pursuit, hunting the men. Since your rape-revenge movie seems reversed from the typical rape-revenge structure, I was wondering if the slasher movie had influenced it at all. Why are they pursuing her, instead of the other way around? It makes your film unique.
CF: In fact, I didn’t watch much of the rape and revenge movies that existed before.
DREAD CENTRAL: Or the slasher movies?
CF: Yeah. I think the idea was really the revenge because I think at some point, when she’s out of the cave — at the beginning, she just tried to escape and at some point, after she’s in the cave, and she’s kind of reborn, she decides to go after them. For me, when she’s out of the cave, it’s a new character. She’s really reborn. She has a phoenix tattoo and her body’s like armor, and she’s a new girl in a way. It totally for me transformed the dynamic of the movie and she decides to go after them. She really decides to reverse the chase. It’s her moment to take control of her elements. I really liked the idea of the hunters who are becoming the hunted.
DREAD CENTRAL: Your inspiration isn’t necessarily genre-specific, which helps give the film a point of view that’s different from other films that are focused on the genre’s tradition. [To Matilda Lutz:] So, when you read this character, what did you think?
MATILDA LUTZ: I was very surprised because I’d seen her short film, which is a completely different thing. It’s a sci-fi short film which has nothing to do with blood. [Laughs.] Or, you know, like, crazy environments. So I was very surprised. It was challenging, so I liked it from the beginning because I wanted to — I’ve always been seen, I think, as the girl next door, who’s like nice and polite.
DREAD CENTRAL: Not anymore! [Laughter.]
ML: So it was challenging for me, and I wanted to… I couldn’t wait to play a character like that! At the same time, I had met Coralie before reading the script and I just felt like I knew her and we auditioned the next day in her hotel room at, like, six o’clock in the morning and we were working on the character together. Then I did self-tapes where she was very specific about what she wanted to see — so, like, the blonde wig and doing my nails and being in a pink dress. So I just felt how much she cared for the project and I guess it’s the first time that I realized how important it is, the relationship with the director. I’ve always known that the director is really important, but for some reason, maybe because of the directors I’ve worked with, it was more like a passive relationship, and here it was all about creating it together and being active and discovering things as we were also shooting.
DREAD CENTRAL: Did you feel that having a female director helped with that? People have asked me on social media about this film, if the rape scene is triggering; and I said that I felt because a woman directed it, it is because there are details that a male might not put in there — like with the boy who who won’t stop. I was a bit taken aback, “God! That’s real! That’s anyone on the subway who could take it that far, and there’s nothing that she can do.”
ML: It’s incredibly real, and it was one of the most difficult scenes even though you don’t really see anything. I’m not naked…
DREAD CENTRAL: Yeah, it’s not like in Irreversible, which seems less real — baroque, almost operatic, or at least less pedestrian. This film is like, everyday — this could have happened to me on the subway.
ML: It’s true — it’s exactly like that. I think it was my biggest fear growing up because I had a lot of situations where I was like a little girl that put me in situations like that, like the subway, or on a bus going to the mountains, and all these, like, where it’s not even like physical, but it’s psychological. And it’s scary. Because you, especially when you’re a little girl, you have no defense mechanism. You just freeze and don’t know what to do. That’s exactly how I perceived the scene: her becoming a little girl again and freezing, not knowing what to do. And she tries to react, but she doesn’t really know how to because she’s afraid. There’s nothing she can do. And I think that her [Fargeat] being a female director made a difference because if I was probably shooting a rape scene with a male director, it would probably have been in my head a lot more and the fact that maybe the camera’s shooting at my butt or tits or whatever, and it wasn’t concentrated on the real psychological part of the rape scene, but more on what you see in the rape scene, if that makes sense.
DREAD CENTRAL: It does come back to the male gaze. It could have been more of an exploitative lens than an emotional lens to your character. Did you both discuss the scene a lot beforehand?
CF: In fact, not really, not at all.
CF: In fact, I think it’s the only thing I couldn’t prepare that much — because I prepare a lot, everything — and I was just thinking, “Okay, what do I want to show, and what do I not want to show?” And I knew I didn’t want to show a lot directly, but what I was much more interested in was showing psychological violence and the fact that she can’t defend herself and what leads to that fact. It’s often not the physical violence, but much more the psychological violence and the consideration that can paralyze you and also the manipulative thing that the guy is trying to make her believe that she’s the one responsible for what’s happening to her and that she created the situation. All this I think can really mess up your ability to defend yourself and to react, and I think there are very different ways of being very violent and of projecting this violence on someone.
Also, I didn’t want to be very graphic for the rape scene because for me it was not the core of the movie — it was one element, the most extreme and the most violent, but of many different violent things that could be put on the character. For Irreversible for instance — it’s a movie I like a lot, and it’s horrifying, but I think it’s in a way justified to show it because it’s really the core of the movie: how this rape is going to ruin this couple, how it’s going to ruin this pure love, and this happiness, and I think it has a meaning to go very far into — you know, to shock the audience about that. Because it’s really the movie deals only around that. For Revenge, it was totally different stuff: For me, the movie was not about the rape, it was about the character as a whole, about how you can be seen as weak and empty and why and how you can transform into a very kind of superheroine, empowered female.
DREAD CENTRAL: I would have to say it’s similar for one of the male characters in the film, since the main assailant is almost the most sympathetic compared to the other men, and the most weak and pushed around by them. I didn’t expect that the boyfriend would also be an asshole, but they’re all gangsters, right? Can you please talk about casting the male roles and how the actors all played off each other?
CF: I wanted for the three guys to kind of represent a different kind of violence towards her. The guy who is the “alpha guy,” who is the handsome one, who is used to having always the best, and he thinks he can bend the world to his will, basically, that everybody obeys him. I think the most violent thing with her was that, when she’s very nice and smiling and dancing — for him, she’s everything, she’s the eighth wonder of the world, she’s great — and then as soon as she’s starting to become a problem, in an instant she switches to becoming nothing, that she’s a little whore, that she doesn’t get to talk about his wife and he can slap and push her from a cliff. I think this is a very real mechanism of how you can from one moment be everything and the other moment, okay, you’re nothing anymore. This is so violent and something very true.
Then there is the rapist who is basically kind of a frustrated guy who was dreaming to be like Richard, like the handsome one, but nature made him a little bit less handsome, probably, a little bit less rich, and a little bit with less power, so his way of putting himself in front of the stage is trying to get the girl. What I liked with this character was, after doing the chase, showing all his weakness and his dumb things that make him funny in a way, and makes the audience also wanting to follow him, because I think we need to also want to follow the chase.
And there is the third guy, who is the guy who sees but doesn’t do anything. The kind of guy who seems so sweet and so teddy-bear, you know? But who has absolutely no emotion, no empathy — and he’s probably the kind of guy who suddenly reveals himself extremely violently, like completely nuts. Maybe he was the guy who was laughed at when he was a kid and who interiorized all his anger, and all of a sudden he can be such a brutal guy and become very violent. I liked to play with the three sides of those characters, basically.
DREAD CENTRAL: Tell me about shooting the last scene of the film, which is phenomenal. Can you talk about the concept of that, and the performing of it, because it was very physical.
CF: Yes, in fact it was, for the whole ending scene, you know there is a sequence when he’s looking for her, and then there is a chase inside the villa. I think it took four days to shoot all this, and we did it quite at the beginning of the shooting, after having shot all the scenes with the clean villa, so then one day the blood happened! [Laughter.] I think it was surprising for everybody to suddenly have to deal with the blood.
DREAD CENTRAL: The continuity —
CF: Yeah, the continuity, but also with that amount of blood; nobody expected that there would be so much — I think not even myself! [Laughter.]
ML: You just loved it! And some days you were like, “Fuck it!” [Laughter.]
CF: Nobody was really prepared to handle that. We were not prepared that the blood would be so slippery, that once it’s on the floor, nobody can walk in it, so it brought on-set really a kind of craziness because there was blood everywhere. The actors were covered in blood all the time, they were sticking to the walls if they put their arm [on them]. Nobody could walk in the corridors, the crew couldn’t be on-set because it was so narrow, so basically it was me, the actors, and the DoP running around, “More! Left! Right!” and in a kind of a nervous tension that was totally crazy!
ML: I think in a way you didn’t even expect the way it was gonna be shot because, at certain moments, we had already put blood on the walls or on the floor, but then we realized that we couldn’t shoot the scene with the blood. So we basically started cleaning everything, and then we shot again with no blood — because it was so slippery, the DoP couldn’t fit in the hallway with the whole equipment, so we were trying to run around, but at the same time there wasn’t space — you couldn’t really run fast because it was dangerous, and I think a lot of the performance as well was just about concentrating on not to slip!
CF: Yeah, and the thing is we shot very small pieces. I had my cut in my head and knew how I wanted to edit it, but we couldn’t shoot in order, we had to shoot by angle, so it was crazy because it was doing different runnings with different amounts of blood all in a row and it was kind of mad and absurd and surreal — and sometimes the crew really didn’t understand why it was —
ML: I think everyone…
CF: [Laughter.] Yeah! “What was happening?”
ML: Everyone was clueless about what was happening. She was the only one who was like, “I got it, you guys!” [Laughter.]
CF: It was a crazy shoot. Definitely.
DREAD CENTRAL: Did you feel free covered in all that blood?
ML: This is the thing: in the beginning, it was so much fun because you never get to do that. Also, I don’t think really anyone expected to have that much blood. When she started… the special effects team would be like putting some blood here and putting some blood there, and then she’s like, “No no no! EVERYTHING!” [Laughter.] And everyone was like, “Are you sure?” And she was then like getting buckets and putting blood on the floor, on the ceiling, and then on the pavement — everywhere. Everyone was looking at her like she was nuts! So at the beginning it was such a crazy situation that it was fun — to see from the outside and to be inside. I remember being so cold because the blood would be wet, so she would come in the hallway with a bucket of hot water and start pouring hot water on me. It was a crazy situation. Then it becomes difficult by the second-to-last bits of the shoot because you’re so exhausted and you don’t understand anything that’s going on —
CF: And we wouldn’t have time, so you had to go fast —
ML: We wouldn’t have time, we were, like, really running. I remember the scene of him choking me — we shot that in maybe one take or two takes. Like: “That’s it!” That was exactly the last bit we had to shoot and the next day we were going to be in a different location, and we had, like, I don’t know, thirty minutes to shoot that. It was crazy. I remember everyone freaking out: The producer was like, “[panicky voice] We need to get out!” People were already leaving the set. It was insane!
If you want to join in the insanity, be sure to check out Revenge this weekend!
The film is written and directed by Coralie Fargeat and stars Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, and Guillaume Bouchède.
Jen (Matilda Lutz) is enjoying a romantic getaway with her wealthy boyfriend, which is suddenly disrupted when his sleazy friends arrive for an unannounced hunting trip. Tension mounts in the house until the situation abruptly––and viciously––intensifies, culminating in a shocking act that leaves Jen left for dead. Unfortunately for her assailants, Jen survives and reemerges with a relentless, wrathful intent: revenge.