TIFF Review: 'Violation' Is Unflinching in Its Complex Portrayal of Revenge Directed by Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer
Starring Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Obi Abili
Published Sep 16, 2020Like Gaspar Noé's Irréversible before it, Violation masterfully plays with the promise of catharsis supposedly ingrained in the "rape and revenge" subgenre by way of a knowing manipulation of chronology. Directing duo Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer's entropic drama of trust and consequences interrogates the simplified morality and causality of the more pulpy and exploitative entries in this taboo genre by unseating the audience from their expectations and forcing them to sit with the laborious toll the act of revenge calls for.
Shot with a meticulous patience and unsettling intimacy, Violation affords no foundational anchor to orient its audience as it follows the processing of Miriam's (co-director Sims-Fewer) trauma. While we begin with a tense but affable reunion between her and her sister (Anna Maguire) and the realization her relationship to her husband (Obi Abili) is deeply strained, we are soon freely dropped anywhere between, before, or after the events which give the subgenre its name. This provocative cross-cutting forces the audience to sit, stir and reflect in these moments — which bracketing the horrifying act that this subgenre has guaranteed — like having the wind knocked out of you and being forced to stand and take it.
Mancinelli and Sim-Fewer play this deconstruction with care, knowing full well the impact of what they show and the triggering nature this subject carries with it. The tactile intimacy of their cinematography, coupled with rawness of the cast — with Sims-Fewer deserving to be signalled out for her gripping and layered lead performance — allow the discomfort Violation freely trades in and languishes upon to resonate. A standout sequence, for example, involves the painstaking process of body disposal, which, nestled between scenes of normalcy and familiarity and shown in visceral detail, carries an unnerving yet powerful affect. The film is filled with these long moments of reflection and contrast that burdens you with the severity of the actions on display. Unsettling though it may be, Mancinelli and Sim-Fewer's command over their chronology forces it to work.
Violation is a challenging watch, but one with clear intention and care in its execution to make it an equally rewarding one. Confrontational yet never belligerent, unsettling yet never disturbing, Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer achieve a provocative balance while exploring this loaded subject matter through a fresh perspective. While "rape and revenge" films mostly subsist on flipping the binary between victim and perpetrator, Violation does not let its audience off so easy and emerges as a complex tale of morality and consequence couched in the trappings of its often-maligned subgenre. (one plus one)