INTERVIEW: Coralie Fargeat Talks About Pushing the Boundaries With ‘Revenge’ (2017)

Revenge is a film that has had a lot of success since its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. Now a few years later, it is receiving a limited edition blu-ray release with new interviews and commentary. To celebrate the release, our staff writer James was able to speak to the director Coralie Fargeat about the film and what inspires her in making her projects. Her first feature Revenge follows the character of Jen, a young woman who is left for dead in the desert by three men, ready to be reborn and seek vengeance upon her attackers.

JP: I wanted to ask first of all, how the creative process started for a project like this? Did it begin with the genre, or the character or what element to the film?

CF: So basically, two elements together. It was absolutely the genre [revenge]. Firstly, I wanted to do a genre film because that’s what I liked, but with the idea of this figure like Lolita seen at the beginning that is an eighth wonder of the world to these men, but as soon as she starts to be a problem for them they think they can erase her from the surface of the earth as if she were nothing. I liked to question myself, how quick this switch can happen and how women can be seen by these people and everything that can lead to that. So, the idea was really to go very far into what she was going to endure so she can be born as a different character. And the genre was really the best way for me to be able to show that and go very far in the way I wanted to do it. Because once you escape from total reality, you have the freedom to create your own world and your own rules and I knew I wanted to go very far in the symbolism. So, I think both elements influenced one another when I started to write. The character, what it can say about women and the gaze we have on women as well as the genre that allows you to create something strong and very off-limits regarding the subject you have in your hands.

JP: As well as obviously the character itself, one major part of the film is its visuals and how they encapsulate that whole environment. I’ve heard in interviews that Kill Bill and Deliverance were references for you when pitching the film. I was wondering what visually evocative films helped you in making Revenge?

CF: Visually what really influenced me – and what I loved when I was younger – was the first Mad Max and definitely the last Mad Max: Fury Road, where the desert becomes a character in itself. At some point the desert reflects what the character goes through. Kill Bill was also a very good reference as to be able to come out of reality giving you your own rules for what you want your character to do. I remember when I watched Kill Bill at some point she takes three shotgun bullets in the chest and a second after she gets up. I loved that, I love that sense of this is my character, this is my world, I can set the rules that I want. I knew the story wasn’t super original as this has been told many times in many different ways but I wanted to tell it in a way that would resonate differently and give it its own personality.

JP: There’s also the strong symbol of the phoenix and how it represents rebirth with Jen’s character. What interests you most about those kinds of themes and the symbol of the phoenix itself?

CF: What I like from the phoenix symbol is that he is reborn from his own ashes. He’s been through hell and destruction, being completely burned and this gave him his strength. When this phoenix is born again nothing can stop it, it’s almost like a superpower and I liked this mythology to guide Jen and to be able to lead her through territories that were totally unknown to her. I like the simple idea that this symbol basically just comes from a beer can, it’s something very basic but I think that is something that you can’t do in another type of genre film. You can twist and go very far in turning things upside down and I like to have fun with that. I think this is the tone of the movie that it’s very serious with her and what she goes through but always keeping an entertaining distance that allows you to go through the movie without suffering too much. You have this grotesque operatic sense – so much blood, so much pain that you can enter it as a game in a sort of way. But you will still feel all the emotions and what the character is going through.

JP: Obviously in the revenge genre you need a strong character and you have that in Jen, which Matilda Lutz plays amazingly. I wanted to know if you could talk about the collaboration process with you and Matilda in creating Jen?

CF: I first met Matilda in the casting process, she was one of the first I saw when I was casting in the States because I was also casting in France and Europe as we didn’t know what the final language was going to be. At some point when we started to greenlight the film, I first chose another actress for the part of Jen. We started doing a little bit of prep and when the movie started to get real for her; I think she started to get a little scared of the part because she realised it was going to be intense in so many ways. She quit the project maybe two weeks before we had to start shooting. For a movie, it’s the worst thing that can happen, but it turned out to be the best thing as I immediately thought of Matilda again. When we first met we had a two hour discussion and she said “I really liked the script, I really trust the script and I really trust you.” And I knew what I was going to need more than anything is that trust. When I called her two weeks before shooting she said “Great, I’m there” and she took a train coming to Paris. We only had two weeks prep and then we went off to Morocco so we didn’t really have a lot of time to talk about the role. When you don’t have time you just rely on your instinct and your trust and that’s what happened.

JP: If I can ask one final question before our time runs out. It’s difficult to predict what the future now holds but is there any next project or particular kind of story you’d like to tell?

CF: Yeah, I’ve taken the time to really think about what I want to do next. First of all, I took time to digest the movie. It was one year going round the world with this movie and you need to truly take the time to think about what you want to do with the next few years of your life. Finding what can keep me as passionate as what I have already done and push me to get the best of myself. After a while, there was one precise idea that was maybe not the easiest one but I knew was the one that resonated the most with me. I’m almost at the end of the writing now so it’s going to be a whole new adventure that I’m excited about. It’s still a genre film but very different from Revenge, it’s not the same world at all. Similar to Revenge, I put a lot of myself in it, not having any boundaries and I think that’s what I like when I choose a subject, that I know it’s going to allow me to create something that is visually specific to my own. I knew for this new project those ingredients were there so that’s how it took shape. Like you said though, it depends on a lot of other things and nobody knows when we’re going to be able to shoot what. You just have to keep your faith and your willing cause that’s the most important thing. You, as a director, are the locomotive of the train so you have to keep this strength no matter what happens.

Revenge (Limited Edition) will be released on 11th May and is available to buy online.

Header Image Courtesy of IMDB

Image Courtesy of Second Sight Films