Kevin Janssens

The Room

the room

A couple leave their old jobs and home behind to start a new life in a rural fixer upper. Soon after moving in, they find a hidden room. What makes this room special is it will grant you any physical desire. After many wishes, the couple wishes for something most wouldn’t dare. Yet they soon discover that everything has a cost.

Written and directed by Christian Volckman (Renaissance) and co-written by Eric Forestier (La troisième partie du monde), The Room spins an interesting yarn. We meet this couple as they arrive at their new home, having left their jobs and life in the city behind. While working on various repairs to the house, they discover a hidden room. Any physical thing you could want, the room will provide. Money? Clothes? Furniture? It will conjure it for you. Yet we all know everything has a price and a consequence. When the wife impulsively wishes for a baby, it not only puts a strain on their relationship, but it threatens to ruin every aspect of the life they’ve built together.

This film takes a unique yet simple concept and runs with it. It forces the audience to wonder what they would wish for and what they would be willing sacrifice. The plot is very effective, and the filmmakers don’t spend too much time trying to explain how or why the room works this way. There are some minor hints, but for the most part the audience is just made to accept it as the way things are. When the couple wishes for a baby, after the wife has suffered miscarriages, it leads to some very unexpected twists and turns. This is when the plot loses me a bit. It veers into very strange territory that, while very thrilling and suspenseful, is also quite uncomfortable to watch. I would wager that this is the goal of the filmmakers, but it seemed like an unnecessary direction to take.

The two leads in The Room are both fantastic. Olga Kurylenko (Mara, Quantum of Solace) stars as Kate. Kurylenko brings an emotionally charged performance. As Kate we see her go from wariness about the wish-granting room to emotional duress as she tries to hold the frayed pieces of her life together with ill-advised wishes. Her husband, Matt, is played by Kevin Janssens (Revenge, The Ardennes). Matt is a loving husband who wants to provide anything and everything his wife desires. Yet her desires lead to an unexpected place that Matt doesn’t quite know how to handle. Janssens plays a surprisingly warm character who has fits of rage, but his love for his wife is always evident. The pair have amazing on-screen chemistry and convey the subtleties of a committed relationship.

Most of the artistry of The Room involves the production design. The house where the film takes place is stunning. As the couple accumulates more things from their wishes, each room in the house takes on a variety of themes. The entire inside of the house turns into something out of a fairy tale. At one point another world is created within the wish room, which creates a very striking image that plays with the eye a bit. It is the kind of house some might never want to leave.

The Room is a simplistic morality tale that makes audiences wonder what they would do if they could wish for anything physical they desired and what they would be willing to sacrifice to keep it. The filmmakers do a great job of slowly building up the wishes until they become out of control. The house, in a way, is a character itself that drives a wedge between the family unit as it gives them whatever their hearts desire. The performances from both Kurylenko and Janssens are phenomenal and only reaffirm how talented they are. The film veers into a direction that might put off some viewers, but overall it is a well crafted and suspenseful story.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

Revenge

revenge

Jen goes to an extravagant vacation house with her rich boyfriend. While there, her boyfriend’s friends show up early for their annual hunting trip. After a seemingly normal night of drinking, laughs, and dancing, things take a turn. Jen is attacked by one of the friends. After that moment everything spirals out of control, and Jen is left for dead. The men never expected her to survive, and they will soon come to regret it.

Rape-revenge films are fairly common in the thriller/horror genre. They all tend to follow certain rules and tropes, but French writer/director Coralie Fargeat brings audiences something fresh to her first feature-length film. This film being written and directed by a woman makes a huge difference in how not only the victim, but the rape itself is portrayed. One of the biggest differences is that, traditionally, the victims in these types of films are always sweet, virginal, innocent young women. In real life, women are not always the delicate victim in a white dress. Jen is very provocative with what she wears, she is flirtatious, and her boyfriend is a married man. Having an “imperfect” victim allows Fargeat to reinforce the idea that no always means no. It doesn’t matter if a girl was flirting with a man, or dancing with him, or anything else. When she says she does not want to have sex with a man, it needs to be respected. It is quite refreshing to see a more authentic character, and it only allows Fargeat to send a stronger message about rape culture. The final confrontation leaves the male in a vulnerable state while Jen is in a state of power, which makes it all the more satisfying to watch.

The rape scene itself is also treated much differently than in past films. In other films of the same genre the scenes are often long and drawn out to the point of making everyone in the audience very uncomfortable. While this is an effective method, Fargeat uses a different tactic. She made the decision to focus more on the events leading up to the rape. Then, during the act itself, everything is shown slightly out of focus. This allows the audience’s eye to be drawn to other things going on. One specific shot focuses simply on Jen’s hand against a sliding glass door as she is being attacked, but then the camera focuses on the reflection in the glass of another character going for a swim like nothing is happening. It is a tasteful and visually interesting way to film the scene.

The various character arcs are truly fantastic, and the performances make them even better. Matilda Lutz (Rings, The Fifth Wheel) plays Jen. When Jen is first introduced, she seems like just another party girl. As the film progresses, Lutz gets the chance to show Jen as a survivor. In a way, even her relationship with her married boyfriend is a method of survival. Lutz does a fantastic job of conveying Jen’s strength, especially in the climax of the film. Kevin Janssens (The Ardennes, Vermist) plays Jen’s boyfriend, Richard. What makes Janssens performance stand out is how, at first glance, he appears to be the perfect guy. As the film progresses, Janssens gets to show that Richard is a sociopath who cares for no one but himself. It is amazing to see the initial chemistry between Lutz and Janssens, and how quickly that all changes after Jen is attacked. Another compelling performance is from Vincent Colombe (Point Blank, My King) as Stan. Stan is Jen’s attacker. What I love about Colombe’s performance is how unwilling he was to face the consequences of attacking Jen. It is very satisfying to watch him continually fall apart as the film progresses, after letting his entitlement get the better of him.

The artistic aspects of Revenge are absolutely stunning. Much like the scene I described earlier, the cinematography brings a lot of beauty to the film. A large portion of the film is in a very stark, dead landscape, yet the way various scenes are shot brings everything to life. Even the sets chosen make the film gorgeous. The vacation house specifically gave the filmmakers a chance to really play with some fascinating angles and use of color. This is especially utilized in the climax for one of the most intense and breathtaking scenes of the entire film, putting an emphasis on bright colors, lots of blood, and amazing long-takes. The only true negative I can say for this film involves one visual element. At one point Jen uses a heated up beer can to cauterize a wound, leaving a burn impression on her skin of the beer logo. The problem is that the logo and lettering should be reversed, but when her skin is revealed it is not.

Another amazing artistic aspect is the film’s score. The score was composed by Rob, who is also known for scoring films such as Horns and Maniac. The electronic music, with very subtle 80’s vibes, goes will with some of the color choices used throughout the film. Rob’s music is fantastic because it blends in with the background when necessary. Yet, when the music really gets going, it elicits strong emotions in the audience (especially when it comes to getting behind Jen as she exacts her revenge). The score really only adds to the quality of the film and brings it to the next level.

Revenge is an intense, mesmerizing, and extremely brutal film. I can say without a doubt this film was my favorite at the International Horror and Sci-fi Film festival. Watching a rape-revenge film made by a woman made a huge difference in the film style and imagery, and it was for the better. Fargeat creates a compelling story with dynamic, raw characters. It sends a message about rape culture, while also being a stunning and entertaining film. The filmmaking, acting, artistry, and music make this film stand out from the crowd. Revenge is one you will not want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10