Violation stormed through film festivals forming a fierce reputation, with floods of praise following closely behind. Soon a budding curiosity into why this film was gaining so much recognition occurred, but now with Violation streaming on Shudder we can entirely understand its limelight. Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli have curated a sorely brutal genre challenger, with its allegorical skeleton provoking even the most seasoned of viewers. The film follows Miriam (Sims-Fewer), and her husband Caleb (Obi Abili), as they visit her blissful sister Greta (Anna Maguire), and her charming husband Dylan (Jesse La Vercombe). However, their sunny weekend soon buckles when Miriam’s relationship with Dylan reaches a boiling point.
Early on it is made rather evident that Miriam and Caleb have serious relationship issues, which is even furthered highlighted when we see Dylan and Greta fooling around, imitating a teenage romance. Yet, the disharmony runs deeper than what we are first made to believe, as Miriam and Dylan’s chemistry is intoxicatingly electric. Their light flirting can be easily masked as playful banter, but their lusty gazes spill a brewing attraction. After a somewhat tumultuous argument between Greta and Miriam we are non-surprisingly met with the truth that Miriam is a selfish person whose self-acclaimed ‘good deeds’ are for her satisfaction only. And it’s with this notion that the film drifts from the rape revenge archetype. Miriam and Dylan cosy up by the fire, with a warm auburn glow framing their mood, and although she shows a faint sign of want, she soon backs away with a stern warning that she is faithful within her marriage and respects her sister, as well as herself. However, the unthinkable still occurs.
Revenge cinema is inherently visceral, merciless, and coarse. Although Violation understands its genre privileges, it denies conformity, and instead breathes through our moral compass. Classic avengers of rape revenge films, such as Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) in I Spit on Your Grave (1978) represent the personification of our anger over said unjust acts. Without indulging in spoilers, Violation fires the ‘right or wrong’ trope through choosing to harbour both of the main characters actions through similar lights.
This is where Violation harshly shines. Assault is not provoked, nor is using flirting as an excuse acceptable. Miriam is a hopeless victim to the worst of crimes, just as much as any other. We do not particularly mellow to her character; she is actually rather bothersome. But a victim she remains. Being a saint is not in alignment with being a victim. Violation confronts us with a grueling truth that not many other revenge films do. No is no, regardless of circumstances or character portrayal.
Violation truly infiltrates the notion of ambiguity even further through the final act. After the assault, the film drifts into a trippy structure and utilises non-linear storytelling, almost embodying the cruel consequence of confusion that comes after harm. The rest of the film twists our perception and positions Miriam as a ruthless punisher. Without risking plot points, she becomes barbaric and cold with her revenge, with Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli using intensely realistic visuals and gruellingly graphic dialogue to disturb.
To accompany such a stark narrative is a glowing cinematography that utilises its nature-based setting to boast a deep symbolism. The manner in which Violation is composed exposes the seedy underbelly of nature, with plenty of close-up shots of insects and animals in different stages of their life cycles. Visuals such as a spider falling to its death and a caterpillar crawling along embodies what the film successfully attempts to convey; the ferociousness of human nature is inevitable and the position of prey to predator is a constantly evolving chain which eventually twists.
With a dark air continuously being laden over every scene it’s no wonder that Violation has been met with glowing reviews, however one aspect that I feel needs more attention is the absolutely phenomenal performance by Sims-Fewer. In what I could only imagine is an extremely draining role comes a unique responsibility to show respect to an awfully harrowing situation. Sims-Fewer does just this, through avoiding displaying Miriam’s actions as hysterical (as usually seen in revenge films), but instead through homing in emotions of distress, anger, grief, and regret. Creating an all-encompassing role that refuses to portray the victim as a flaming ball of anger, but one who is experiencing gaslighting and dismissiveness from those she should trust the most.
Violation sets a new path for revenge cinema, with a varied range rousing contemplative questions and a unique perspective on what it means to be a victim.
Violation is available to watch via Shudder right now!