Women are taking the fight to men in Hollywood right now.
While the #MeToo movement continues to gather pace in Tinseltown, the change is already being reflected at the cinema. Where once women were depicted as damsels in distress, films are increasingly reflecting a world where females are fighting back.
Revenge may be the most striking addition to this cinematic movement yet. A survival horror thriller from French newcomer Coralie Fargeat, it’s a modern rape exploitation movie, full of striking visuals, gory effects and blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Matilda Lutz stars as Jen, a young American woman taken to a remote luxury getaway by her married lover. Things soon take a turn for the worse, however, when his two friends arrive on the scene with dark thoughts on their minds.
Sexually assaulted and left for dead by her former lover, Jen somehow rallies to exact bloody revenge on all three. A self-styled eminist thriller that has divided audiences but wowed critics, loaded sat down with Lutz to discuss the first true horror film of the #MeToo movement.
loaded: What drew you to the part of Jen?
It was completely different to anything I had worked on before. I have always played the nice ‘girl next door’ characters. This was something where I played two completely different characters in one, completely removed from me in real life. Plus, I learned how to use guns, which was fun.
loaded: How did you end up landing this part?
I met with Coralie before I had even read the script and we just talked. We talked for hours. It was like we had known each other for years. The next day, she asked me up to her hotel room to audition for the part. She made me crawl around on the floor and do things like act out being in pain for about two hours. It was a unique experience but it showed me how passionate she was about the project.
Over the next few weeks we were video messaging back and forth, developing this character. Finally I got a call from Coralie telling me the part had gone to someone else. It was upsetting, of course, but the fact she called me made a difference. People tend to disappear in Hollywood.
I still felt proud that, in a way, I had got to play the role too and had created something. Next thing I know, about two weeks before shooting Coralie called me again. It turned out the actress they cast had got scared and disappeared from the project. Suddenly I was back in and needed as soon as possible.
loaded: Were you at all apprehensive about taking on a role like this?
I think if I was younger, it would have been scary because it’s not just about the physical and emotional parts. It’s about being confident with your body because you are shooting the whole movie in a bikini with a male crew around you. You had to accept that and focus on whatever the character requires you to do. It’s hard. Especially in the first part of the movie, where you have to be seductive and sensual with three older guys. That could be scary, if you don’t have experience.
loaded: The film arrived around the time as #MeToo movement started. Can you see why people have might see this film as a comment on men in society as a whole?
Matilda: It’s crazy. The #MeToo movement didn’t even exist when we were shooting the film. It debuted at the Toronto Film Festival about three weeks before the Harvey Weinstein stuff started. From that moment on, pretty much anyone that saw the film drew the comparisons.
The truth is that this stuff has always been out there though. Women not being seen as equal to men. It’s so engrained in our culture. We as women, we grew up being told to be careful with things like where we walked late at night. Things men don’t have to think about. It’s such a part of our culture that it’s become normal. That’s what the film exposes.
Women are constantly under threat from verbal, psychological or physical violence. Usually the victim gets blamed too, rather than looking at the predator. For instance, I remember talking to Coralie about the dance scene and I didn’t want to go too far with my moves because I was worried it was going to give a reason for the rapists actions.
She was like ‘this is exactly what I want to say.’My character might have been dancing in a certain way or wearing a short dress, but that doesn’t mean that when she says ‘no’ he is allowed to take advantage.It’s something I learned as well. We’re so influenced by everything around us. Especially growing up in Italy, which is a very male-orientated country, you don’t see the wrong of it.
loaded: Was it as intense to shoot as it looked?
Matilda: Every scene presented a different challenge, but in a good way. We shot in Morocco in February and it was freezing cold, even though it looks very hot. Running barefoot in the desert could get painful. Also, working with so much fake blood was fun for the first few days, but all that slippery, sticky red mess soon became a nightmare to deal with.
loaded: Was the revenge aspect of the film an appealing aspect? It must have been fun.
Matilda: Audiences go through all this stuff with the character. You see her mistreated, not just at the hands of her rapist but also with the verbal and psychological violence she faces from the other men.
As soon as she tries to stand up for herself her lover tries to buy her silence and when she still says no, he thinks he can kill her and get away with it. There’s also the guy who sees all of this and doesn’t do anything. He’s just as bad.
So, it was fun to act out the revenge against those characters given what they put her through. It was kind of scary as well as I didn’t know the three actors in the film that well and didn’t know what to expect.
loaded: Did having a female director on set make a difference, given the subject material?
Matilda: It did. The crew was 95% men and I was filming all my scenes in a bikini. You feel like you are constantly in the spotlight, but Coralie always had my back. I was never put in a situation I wasn’t comfortable with. The rape scene was handled very carefully, for example.
We didn’t rehearse it before. Just talked through the technical parts. If there was anything I was unsure of, Coralie used a body double in my place – like the shot where the actor puts his hands down my panties.
loaded: Which was the toughest scene to shoot?
Matilda: There’s a scene we shot in a cave that was very draining. We had been working 17-hour days and that was one of the last scenes we shot. Everyone was exhausted, and we were down in this cave, underground, where the temperatures fell below zero yet it remained very humid.
I ended up slipped into this trance-like state, where I was barely functioning. Thankfully Coralie guided me through everything. It gave it a kind of trippy feel which worked well in the scene though.
loaded: There’s not going to be a sequel, is there?
Matilda: Coralie hasn’t planned for a sequel. The question was raised before and she said no straightaway. This is going to be a one-off and I couldn’t imagine doing it without her, so I guess that’s it.
Revenge is in cinemas now.