It’s uncomfortably evident by a title sequence of a woman driving through a winding road in the Norwegian countryside as well as the title itself – Revenge – that this determined figure has a goal to fulfill. She is looking for someone in particular, and upon finding this charming gentleman, along with his loving wife and precocious toddler, the woman is unnerved and lost in thought.
She to severely punish him.
Hevn (Revenge) is always uncomfortable, seemingly on the verge of chaos and violence, be it in the way characters stare at each other, the knife the vengeance- seeking woman occasionally grabs, or really anytime one character happens upon another alone.
The woman is Rebekka (Siren Jørgensen), though she goes by an alias, and soon reveals that her sister’s life was destroyed by an incident that happened some 20 years ago. For whatever reason it’s taken her all that time to track down the man responsible (or at least decided that vengeance is her best outcome), as she feigns a travel journalist, and is welcomed into the home of these loveable small-town innkeepers.
He is Morten (Frode Winther), a handsome successful man with a clean haircut, beaming smile, and a beautiful family. Good luck Rebekka.
There are a lot of questions that pop up through Hevn, some of the plot-hole ilk rather than the ‘what will happen next’ variety, but stunning cinematography – the film is set in the breathtaking fjords – and the proximity between the heroine and the villain keep everything tense.
It’s for the best – Rebekka’s plot to destroy the life of Morten is calculated but also half cooked. She knows he has a penchant for young women, and a couple of her ploys, including changing the phone number of his best friend’s teenage daughter to hers are duplicitous and startling. But at other times, it seems she has lost control, as if she wasn’t ready to look Morten in the face, or not prepared that he has a family.
Then again, that’s the part of revenge that so often is ignored or glibly alluded to, and what director Kjersti Steinsbø plays with. What makes Hevn an intriguing watch, especially for the first half, is that all our characters are put in a house together, and Rebekka and the viewer are forced to bear witness to Morten and his family and decide we want him punished. Rebekka has flashbacks, and she tells the story of what happened, and it’s clear Morten still have unsavory desires and a lack of conscience.
His friend Ivar, whose young daughter is best friend’s with Morten’s, and the local bartender Bimbo, who has relations with a young woman who is painted as troubled and dramatic, add some drama to the proceedings. Everyone it seems have something hiding in their path, but Hevn doesn’t go for some elaborate, lofty crime, nor does it go for the gratuitous or viscerally satisfying.
While the ending doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the film, Hevn is a thoughtful, intimate, and thereof disturbing revenge drama, a beautifully haunting story with a compelling female protagonist.