Director Coralie Fargeat and star Matilda Lutz discuss Revenge, the stigma around genre cinema, mixing humour and violence, and the way victims are still held responsible for being attacked. This is an excerpt from our forthcoming ebook on feminist horror beyond empowertainment. To read the entire article, get your copy of the book here.
Premiering in the Midnight Madness strand of this year’s TIFF, Coralie Fargeat’s debut feature offers a feminist twist on the rape-revenge film. Italian actress Matilda Lutz plays Jen, a young Lolita spending the weekend with her millionaire lover (Kevin Jannsens) at his remote desert villa. Jen freely flaunts her body to the married man, and when his hunting friends show up to the house, she does not feel like she has to change her behaviour in any drastic way: she still wears the clothes that she usually wears. The men, however, choose to interpret her self-objectification as an invitation. Their inappropriate advances quickly escalate into a violent assault, the consequences of which all of these men — including Jen’s lover — refuse to face: they try to get rid of her. But she will prove to be much more resourceful than they had expected.
Back in Toronto, The Seventh Row talked with director Fargeat and star Lutz about genre cinema and the stigma around it, the film’s mix of humour and violence, and the way victims are still held responsible for being attacked.
Seventh Row (7R): How did you get the idea for Revenge?
Coralie Fargeat: I had this desire to make a genre film because I love genre films. They allow me to create a universe where I can express myself visually and with sound, all the while taking me out of everyday life.
It started with the idea of the character who would be seen as very empty and very weak, at the beginning, but transform into a very powerful, strong, and dark figure. Then, little by little, all the other elements came — the desert, etc… But the basis was the character and her transformation.'That’s what I love about genre: it tells about human dreams and imagination, neuroses and fears.'Click To Tweet
7R: You studied at the famous French film school La Fémis. Is there a stigma around genre films in France, and more specifically in school, when you were learning how to make films?
Coralie Fargeat Totally. I did the Atelier scénario course at La Fémis [screenwriting class]. I first arrived with a project that was completely genre. It was about a woman who thinks that she’s being chased and attacked by insects, and she goes crazy. When I came to the workshop with that idea, everyone looked at me like I was an alien! It’s not at all the kind of projects that are usually read and developed there. I definitely had to fight twice as hard to have my film made, because it’s not the kind of films that we usually do and respect in France.
Genre isn’t really part of French cinema culture, so it’s way more difficult to make your way with genre films. But that’s the kind of films I like. I love Dario Argento’s films, because they are so strange and philosophical, in a way. That’s what I love about genre: it really tells about human dreams and imagination, neuroses and fears.
7R: Were you in any way influenced or inspired by French cinema?
Coralie Fargeat: All the movies I watch feed me, in a way. What I love in French cinema is that although there aren’t many genre films, there are many films that are so rich and truly carried by a director’s specific vision — even if they’re completely different in terms of genre or story.
7R: Did being a woman make it harder for you to make a genre film, specifically?
Coralie Fargeat: I wouldn’t say it made it harder… I think it was a very specific situation. At the beginning, it’s intriguing: “Oh! A woman who wants direct genre?” So it can give you a sort of positive spotlight, at the start. But in the end, and in the financing process, it wasn’t easier at all.
You only get the credibility once you’ve done something. For a first feature, it’s always difficult to have people trust you. What helped me, in my experience, was to have directed my previous short film. It was a sci-fi short film — a completely different story and genre from Revenge. But it showed that I could create these kinds of universes remote from everyday life. People could more easily imagine what I was going to do with this movie.