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Violation
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Movie Reviews

[SXSW ’21] Another Take: ‘Violation’ is not your usual revenge fantasy

WARNING! VIOLATION DEALS WITH EXPLICIT CONTENT THAT IS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW

Violation is an examination of extremely disturbing behavior and the ramifications of our actions. Miriam, played by Madeline Sims-Fewer (who also co-wrote and directed the film with Dusty Mancinelli), is having a hard time in her distant marriage. She goes to visit her sister and her husband, Greta (Anna Maguire) and Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). Greta and Dylan are obnoxious together; it’s seems obvious that they’re very close and happy together, in stark contrast with Miriam and her husband Caleb.

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While Violation is worth seeing without any spoilers, it is a rape revenge film. Usually in a film where an assault occurs, it’s violent, perpetrated by strangers. It wasn’t until more recently with shows like I May Destroy You and Allen V. Farrow that any light has been shone on just how often these crimes are committed by those we trust. In Violation, Miriam is raped by someone she trusts; after this occurrence, she is gaslit, manipulated, and further violated by her rapist and her sister. The realism of this situation is harrowing, and unfortunately familiar to many. 

When Miriam has a conversation with Dylan about how “most people are at least a little s----y”, it’s a bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing of what’s to come. Sexual violence is a complicated topic for any medium, and Violation does not shy away from these nuances. After she’s raped, Miriam tries to have sex with her husband despite him pushing her away. This isn’t the only moment in the film that serves to show us just how complex consent, and rape, can be. 

With non-linear story-telling, Violation slowly pieces together what happened to Miriam on her previous visit to her sister. It can be confusing, as Miriam and Greta are now arguing, distant, exasperated with one another, and we don’t yet know what happened. As the film moves forwards, we’re given flashbacks to what happened to Miriam and how horribly she was violated.

In the present, Miriam has presumably spent an entire year or more plotting her revenge. It’s methodical and as calculated as revenge can be, and it’s truly grotesque. The gore is not the most shocking part of Miriam’s act; it’s how careful she is, and how compelled she is to carry out a horrific act of violence. It’s how she seems to want to change her mind at one point, and continues anyway. 

Violation

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Miriam has her rapist tied up and naked; she’s seduced him to get him where she wants him so that she’ll be able to move forward with her plan. It’s uncomfortable to watch as the camera lingers on his naked body. The discomfort that many will feel when watching this scene is one of the strongest points about this film; a fully clothed Miriam takes advantage of her rapist, and it’s a strong reversal of common horror tropes, where we see women vulnerable and brutalized by men.

This is contrasted with the rape itself; just as uncomfortable to watch, but it’s shot with subtlety that makes the scene slightly less graphic than the revenge to come. 

Madeline Sims-Fewer’s performance is excellent; she’s absolutely distraught as she wails on the floor while she follows through with her plan. Without a lot of dialogue or really any explanation of what is going on in Miriam’s head, we can see the toll that the rape had on her, and the toll that exacting revenge is taking.

Violation

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Violation is a beautiful film that tells the ugliest of stories. While there is a lot of obvious symbolism in shots of nature, they are gorgeously shot. Every shot is intentional, and the setting is atmospheric. While Violation does not maintain the pace of most thrillers, and can be a bit of a slow-burn, it’s hard to take your eyes off of the haunting landscapes and scenery.

While some moments in Violation are satisfying, overall, it is not a satisfying rape revenge story. This can be disappointing, but it’s also way more realistic than the sort of revenge we usually see in film. Miriam does not act out her grueling revenge unscathed, and you’ll be left thinking about the film long after it ends.

SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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