A collaboration between famed Korean Kazakhstanian novelist, Anatoly Kim and filmmaker Ermek Shinarbaev (who was also on-hand to present the film and participate in a subsequent Q&A session), Revenge is a sumptuous and intricately structured epic tale on the contaminative, destructive, and overreaching consequences of revenge. Structured in thematically spiraling, narratively overlapping novellas, the film’s prologue follows the seemingly mythical story of a young prince who, overpowered by a peasant’s son, is mandated by the king to train in armed combat so that when he comes of age, he will become the most powerful warrior in the kingdom. Years later, the prince’s ability is tested in a series of challenges that, although emerging victorious, is tainted with the realization that an opponent had spared the prince and allowed him to win. Unable to obtain another competition against the more skillful rival, and unwilling to accept the compassionate advice of the court poet – the prince’s trusted friend and advisor – the prince orders the opponent to be beaten to death, an act that causes the poet to resign his post and leave the palace. The proceeding novella moves forward to the turn of the 20th century, as a school teacher, angered by the students’ lack of attention, directs his violent rage at a little girl and kills her. Years later, the girl’s half-brother, a sensitive and thoughtful young boy is entrusted with the responsibility of exacting revenge on the schoolmaster, and in the process, abandons his own artistic pursuit and desire to lead a normal life. Although the film’s complex and allegorical composition and atmospherically dense imagery create an indelible viewing experience, the lack of cohesion in several narrative threads (the underformed roles of the teacher’s wife and protector, the hero’s enlightened teacher and spiritual guide, the elderly woman) encumber the film with a sense of situational ambiguity and frustrating incompletion.
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