When one mentions rape/revenge films I Spit on Your Grave is the film most likely to come to mind. Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge or possibly Ms .45 might also come up. All of these however tend toward the violent exploitation end of the genre. With Violation, writer/directors Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli try to take it in a different direction. One that while no less bloody, is more about phycological damage than about body count.
Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Off-Piste, Operation Avalanche) and Caleb (Obi Abili, 21 Bridges) are having some serious problems with their marriage. For some reason spending time with her sister Greta (Anna Maguire, The Fourth Angel) and her husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). I say for some reason because it’s obvious the two couples are very different and the sisters have unresolved issues of their own.
Miriam and Dylan on the other hand seem to get along quite well. Perhaps even a bit too well. Until after a late-night bonfire, Miriam wakes up to him trying to force himself on her.
Violation has what may well be the shakiest camera work I’ve seen in a film that isn’t found footage. I’m mentioning this upfront because it definitely affected how I felt about the film. It’s hard to get immersed in a film that keeps giving you a headache.
Anchored by excellent performances from Sims-Fewer and LaVercombe Violation has a lot going for it. While that includes an unflinching and nasty bit of butchery physical violence isn’t the film’s focus. It’s more about the mental toll the act takes and how that drives Miriam to violence. And how the aftermath affects everyone.
Sadly, Violation keeps undercutting itself by trying too hard to be an art film. The plot skips back and forth in time which is annoying enough. But the constant cuts to shots of the woods and animals, never mind the trick photography, constantly break the film’s mood. A mood that was already fragile thanks to the shaky camera work.
Shots of the landscape flipped on itself and mirrored where the sky should be look stunning and would make a great print on someone’s wall. But they add nothing to Violation except to remind you that you’re watching a movie. Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli have several shorts to their credit and some of these techniques work well in that format. But at feature-length, the constant use of them has just the opposite effect. Violation could have been a good dark drama verging on horror. Instead, it tries too hard to prove it’s not merely a horror film and becomes tedious.
Violation will screen Saturday, November 28th at 7:00pm as part of this year’s Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival.