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VENICE 2016 International Critics’ Week

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A murderous mother-to-be gets her Prevenge


- VENICE 2016: The opening film of the Critics’ Week is a grotesque and disturbing feminist psycho-thriller written, directed and performed by Alice Lowe

A murderous mother-to-be gets her Prevenge
Alice Lowe in Prevenge

“Sweet is revenge – especially to women,” wrote Lord Byron. And what about children still safely cocooned in their mothers’ bellies? In fact, seeking revenge is exactly what the unborn child gestating in the womb of Ruth, the lead character in Prevenge [+see also:
film profile
 – the opening title of the Venice Film Festival's International Critics’ Week – is intent on doing. The film, whose title is a play on a portmanteau of “pregnancy” and “revenge”, is a grotesque and unsettling feminist psycho-thriller written, directed and performed by Alice Lowe, who played Tina in the comedy-horror Sightseers [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Ben Wheatley
film profile
and was especially popular in the cult Channel 4 series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace; it was produced by British outfit Western Edge Picture.

Lowe, with her blue-grey, wild-eyed gaze, manages to be highly amusing and disturbing at the same time. She filmed Prevenge while she was seven months pregnant. The levels of hormones rushing through a woman’s body at that time can lead to vivid, “almost psychedelic” experiences, as Lowe told The Guardian in an interview in the run-up to the festival. And this was the director’s starting point for her debut film: feeling euphoric one day, and low the next. “I wanted to make something that showed pregnancy as this vivid, almost sci-fi experience. I wanted that with the music, imagery, the brightness.” (Ryan Eddleston took care of the movie’s cinematography.)

And so Lowe wrote the screenplay in a couple of weeks and filmed it over 11 days over the course of three weeks, coming up with a bizarre story: a woman kills people by slitting their throats with a huge knife, in order to avenge the death of her husband, who was the victim of a mountain-climbing accident (she suspects that the instructor sacrificed the father to save the rest of the roped party). But it is in fact her unborn baby girl who is ordering her to do all this, with her tiny, chilling voice: "They say babies are sweet, but I’m bitter!" For that matter, it’s actually her obstetrician who backs this up by reminding her: "Women expecting a child have no control over their body; it’s the kids who decide." While the score by Toydrum (Pablo Clements and James Griffiths, ex-UNKLE) plays in the background, Ruth accomplishes her murderous missions and then jots down in one of her notebooks peppered with doodles and clippings: “ONE DOWN.”

"Women can also be ruthless," and they can therefore also receive a death sentence, as occurs during the hilarious and macabre encounter with the manager played by magnificent Scottish actress Kate Dickie. At the end of the day, British dark humour flows through this film like blood, as if the entire Monty Python gang were all being kept in just one head, and what’s more, the head of a woman – a total one-woman band.

(Translated from Italian)

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