The Lucky 13 Film Club: The Revenant

CINDY’S THOUGHTS 

123 thoughts on “The Lucky 13 Film Club: The Revenant

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          1. I haven’t seen The Revenant, but I did see The Hateful Eight today. At the Golden Globes, much was made of the Morricone soundtrack, but I found it disappointing. Also, given the location of Minnie’s Haberdashery there was too much snow drifting through the walls of the Haberdashery. The photography, though, was wonderful. The blizzard conditions were real. I have experienced the same sort of conditions in Colorado and Wyoming. I found the story interesting. I might go see it again.

  1. Happy Birthday, Cindy. It’s Julie’s birthday tomorrow, (b.1961) so a ‘birthday week’ indeed.

    As you know, I haven’t seen the film. (Yet) It looks visually powerful, at least from the clips and trailers, so I can understand why you recommend a big screen showing to get the best from it. As I mentioned, I can’t get ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ out of my head, when thinking about this film. Although it has a different storyline, it has the same ‘feel.’ I have an idea what Bill White will add to this debate, but as I haven’t seen it, I will just say thanks for hosting, and for all the opinions.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Thank you Pete and to your Julie, Happy Birthday on the 14th! I watched ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ awhile back (half of it) and you are right, it has a similar feel, but this one is more visually striking, hands down. The vista shots and panoramic light show such as Northern Lights, the mossy-covered branches of the forest interior, the contrast of colors like the blood against the snow and the black rocks or the snow capped mt. ranges, wide canyons and river shots–oh, I could go on and on–that’s the strength behind The Revenant. If you like nature photography, and if you like how they use the cold to compliment the plot of the story, you will be in heaven. I was shivering when I left the theater.

  2. Very excited to discuss this film with you all. I will try to not ramble. Disclaimer I was a little distracted by the people behind me so may not have a well rounded assessment of the film as you guys. Am eager to see it again to clarify my thoughts.
    First point, I enjoyed your review Tom over at Digital Shortbread. I’ll be honest certain elements like the bear attack while visceral could be endured by me again. I believe that is because some part of me was aware that movie trickery was present in it. I believe they put a lot of work into making it as real as possible and putting the audience right into the centre of the action. I don’t believe they could have done it better without using effects and I was very tense during it but I do recognise CGI throughout the movie. This film was made at great expense (the budget more than doubled during production) and the crew went through great hardship to shoot on location. Most of the CGI I find a necessary tool but I was disappointed by say the CGI moose in an early scene. Compare say to the buffalo stampede in Dances with Wolves.
    Second point. Dave raises an interesting point about whether we would do different than Fitzgerald. We know immediately this is not someone we will be rooting for and Glass’s son changes the nature of the narrative in a very profound way. It could have been more interesting to make Fitzgerald more sympathetic and understand he was choosing what he saw as the best way to survive. Since Glass’s salvation comes partly from a sheer will to survive. Barring Dormhall Gleeson’s inference of Christian and military values a little bit what was the moral code of the men in this time who must have semi-regularly dealt with such hard situations? I feel and I could be wrong that we don’t really get to understand this. Instead we get a tale about revenge and Glass having a son changes in some many ways the narrative of the film. I haven’t read the book so I was wondering Cindy, since you have read the book how did you feel about the creation of Glass’s son and also about the outcome of the film given what Glass chose to do in real life?

    1. Lloyd, so glad for your thoughts and participation! You directed one of your questions to me, so I will address that.
      The book did not emphasize to the extent the film did the Native American angle. In fact, most of Hugh Glass is the stuff of legend similar to Davy Crockett. No one knows if Glass had a Native American wife or son. It’s plausible. That subplot functioned in the film to create motivation for the revenge and to stress a Native American voice. Also, it’s obvious that while DiCaprio’s Glass is unable to speak for much of the film, but adding a Pawnee wife and son, through flashbacks and dream sequences we are able to witness DiCaprio’s character other than on his back groaning in pain. In truth, the real Glass forgave John Fitzgerald. Would that have been a lame ending for the film?

      1. It certainly may have been more complex. I think by adding the son, it is harder to satisfy without revenge. I read that it is possible he didn’t kill Fitzgerald because he had re-enlisted and it was risky to kill a soldier. Thank you for having me participate. Bill is a very smart guy and I enjoyed reading the other reviews you linked to. I had a lot of fun but will try to write less next time. 🙂 How did you interpret the ending?

      2. I didn’t realise that he forgave Fitzgerald in real life! That would have been a much stronger ending, I think, and more morally interesting (the big element I felt the movie lacked)

        1. I’m trying to imagine that ending–without losing a son or wife, it’s incredible but believable that Glass would forgive his enemy, but because the movie script the son was killed by Fitzgerald, I wouldn’t buy the ending that he let him go. Interesting!

  3. Did Tom Hardy’s character John Fitzgerald adequately fill the space left by mute Hugh Glass?
    I’ve always enjoyed Tom Hardy as an actor. I really first discovered him in Warrior. If you saw that you’d think Leo wouldn’t stand a chance against him. 🙂 Then you see Bronson… Here is actually not as physically dominating and maybe a bit too slimy too early. Like would you trust him with Glass’s body? Although again I felt that showed that anybody was capable of curbing their morality in the face of doom. I liked his performance. The line that Tom quoted at the end of his review shows there is a lot of complexity to Fitzgerald.
    Does the physical endurance test Leonardo DiCaprio passed to make this film count as acting?
    I went and saw this with my brother in law who is a big fan of Leonardo Dicaprio’s work. We both wondered afterwards if the Academy would go for his performance here since it was not as showy as say Gatsby and Wolf of Wall Street. It’s not hard to act cold if you’re freezing eh? On the larger issues of of Dicaprio giving Glass an arc or subtle personality tics I’m not sure. All I can say is I believed in his journey while watching the film and I enjoy when actors throw themselves physically and emotionally into the role. I believe it’s solid work. Did I get the emotional punch I was expecting from the flashbacks maybe not but please note Dicaprio is restrained and mature in this film. We haven’t seen him really do that before. Five years ago he may have ugly cried(nothing wrong with that, I’m just noting he’s maybe doing something new here) in some of the scenes. I’d be interested to see what you all think?

    3.As Dave suggests, should the film have included moral ambiguity or is this naturalistic story enough?
    Yes I think a more morally ambiguous film would have been fascinating but this is a very well made film and I’m really happy with it. The cinematography like Birdman before it is very immersive and really puts us in the shoes of the characters on screen. That first scene alone is just wonderful. Putting this kind of showy cinematography and complicated set pieces into natural elements I don’t really feel has been done before and it is very exciting to see people stretching the limitations of what can be done in cinema. Hollywood is shying away from making such ambitious original projects and I really want to support this film as a result. The more straightforward revenge tale is fine but I’m not sure it played as emotionally cathartic for me as it could have. This is way where the people behind me in the cinema may have played a part. How did you all feel about the flashbacks?

    1. “I believed in his journey” is all Leo could have asked for, methinks. I agree I think an emotional catharsis is missing or not stressed enough. I, too, enjoyed being right beside the actors. Being int he forest, for example, while Indians are shooting arrows and I flinch because I’m close to being hit–that kind of closeness makes the film stronger. THE BEAR SCENE. My gosh, how powerful. You commented earlier that you knew it was CGI and you didn’t like the moose–maybe my eyes are waning, but I really wondered if the bear was real and the Moose(s) didn’t bother me.

      1. No your eyes are not waning. I was tense during parts of the bear scene and like the horse going over the cliff I don’t know how else you would pull that off. I guess what I’m saying is it wasn’t so visceral that I could not sit through it again. I also enjoyed flinching at the arrows and I like the scene where he was hiding on the rocks by the river.

    2. I’ve seen a few people describe the film’s cinematography as “immersive” and I really disagree. It’s certainly beautiful, but Lubezki’s use of the camera and reluctance to use cuts makes you constantly aware of the camera’s presence and, for example, slows down the pacing of conversational scenes where a shot/reverse-shot would have sufficed. I understand the intent behind, say, only shooting in natural light, but I’m not convinced it actually makes things more believable; I rarely watch movies shot with lots of lighting and think “oh, that looks fake” for instance.

      1. I understand your position–it’s different that what we are accustomed to and you lose and gain with the decision (an abundance of side of the face shots). I would be interested to compare another version of the film that used traditional cuts to see the difference.

      2. Dave, I dont think cuts with conventional shot structure would have improved the cinematography. What was needed was co-ordination of the mise en scène with the lazy-eyed drift of the camera. Better yet if the lazy eyed cinematography were replaced with precisely placed tracks so more informative and pleasing compositions could be achieved. This cinematography strikes me as the bastard child of John Alcott (Barry Lyndon) and Neal Fredericks (Blair Witch Project)

  4. Regarding Native Americans and forgive me if I’m ignorant here but if I recall correctly from my university studies they were often very deferral to all nature. Like they would perform a ceremony before preparing food they would eat. Was this more for feasts or only particular tribes? I kept wondering if I would see somebody do this but I guess when you’re just trying to survive? Also again just wondering? Were there tribes that were more warlike than others and were the Pawnee maybe not one of them? Finally Cindy was the one Pawnee who helps Glass in the film standing in for many who helped in real life and do you feel that maybe diminishes their role in his survival for economic story telling? Ok I’ll shut up now. 🙂

    1. LOL. I appreciate your enthusiasm. Festivals and ceremonies were common to eat, to give thanks, to war–but not seen here because of the plot. Survival is paramount. The lone Pawnee is trying to get to point A to B. Rarely traveling alone, I don’t know why he was separated from his tribe, but it was good fortune for Glass! In the book, Glass started a fire and waved a torch at the coyotes who fled and he was able to gorge for the first time on real meat. In the film, I liked the addition of the Pawnee who aids by building the sweat lodge which enriched the film. No, I think it helps because honestly, after the way Glass is mauled over and over and drops off cliffs and seems to bounce and the bear attack and finally the fight with Fitzgerald — Glass takes on super-human capabilities. I like the fact he was dying and the Pawnee saved him.

      1. Interesting I thought in real life he was helped by Indians but it is not in the book. I liked the story with the lone Pawnee very much so too. I think it was a book I read about the Navajo regarding food. I was impressed by the spirituality of Native Americans. The idea of never taking anything without giving thanks for it especially where life is concerned but perhaps as one of your students may say “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” 🙂

        1. Certain tribes have fierce reputations like the Comanche and more pacifist like the Hopi. Lloyd, what part of the world are you from, if you don’t mind me asking? Your input today has been awesome!

    1. See I didn’t even notice that at the time, will have to re-watch. I should say SPOILER ALERT.
      When I saw it I wondered if he was about to die and his wife was turning away because he had been too vengeful ala “Revenge is in God’s hand.” and all that. Albeit he had left it in God’s hands right at the end.
      After Cindy reminding me that his wife tempers him throughout his ordeal I guess it could be she is leaving because his trial is over and her spirit is no longer needed or he is going to die and she is moving on to guide his way. Thanks Bill.

      1. On my first viewing, I thought the wife turned away from him because he was dead and she couldnt see him. Then I thought that through some corny Hollywood idea of Indian mojo, she saw him, but seeing he was dead, turned away because his journey no longer concerned her, Finally, the whole thing became insolubly ambiguous, and i could not be sure why she turned away. the important thing seemed to be that he was desolately alone.

        1. Yeah I never really thought about dying him before the end of the film but there’s so many places where you could put that in there. He climbs out of the grave, the cave, the water, the Indian shelter, the carcass. He’s constantly being reborn. You’ve given me a lot to think about but it is very clear the film just didn’t grab you. I’m certainly more enthused about it but I’m not sure it is a perfect film.

    2. You think so? Gosh, I will have to reconsider when I watch it again. My initial thought was he was looking at her and then the slight turn to look at us as if we, who had traveled with him for the whole film, he acknowledges our presence.

  5. Overall, i was very disappointed with this film. It’s opening scene promised us something epic and grand on the order of “The New World,” but turned out to be another boring man in the wilderness survivalist tract on the order of “Jeremiah Johnson.” In this first scene we see that the Indians are vicious and the fur trappers are scum. John Fitzgerald was such a swine that I was rooting for the bear. I watched that scene half a dozen times. It was so ridiculously over the top that I found myself laughing at it. The editing together of a CGI beat, a real bear and a dummy man, and what appeared to be a man in a bear suit amounted to far less than the technical perfection claimed by many for the film. Throughout, we are looking at gorgeous natural landscapes manipulated by a high-tech version of Photo Shop to give the whole thing a unified look. and it looks fabulous, if you enjoy the appearance of digitally manipulated images. But even this is ruined by the cameraman’s Intermittent Exotropia,

    1. Fair enough Bill, I’m sorry you were disappointed. I have to see The New World. I don’t know if I would describe the bear attack as over the top. But certainly it is staged to have us close to the action and they only way to do that would be to use effects. Special effects that were not so effective for you. Would you have preferred something shot further away with quick cuts to make use of a real bear more?

      1. I found it over top in the way the bear repeatedly kept returning to rough up the unfortunate fur trapper. It got to the point where I could only respond with incredulous laughter. I preferred the bear attack in Herzog’s :Grizzly Man” Now that was scary. it isn’t that I perfer a bear attack be shot one way or another. Just that I want to believe it is really happening. Contrast the sudden arrows coming from all directions in the opening scene, I believed in that, and was ducking the arrows myself, terrified at the imminent possibility of sudden death from an unseen adversary.

        1. I get what you’re saying although to be fair doesn’t the bear leave him alone a bit but lingers and that is when he shoots it again with the fight continuing. I bought the bear reacting to that. Although now I really want to see Grizzly Man. Have you seen Rescue Dawn by Herzog? The feature not the doco.

        2. If it weren’t for the research–I believed the mother was protecting her cubs and the separation between she and them with Glass in the middle–makes sense to me she’d return. An interesting thing in the theater–when the bear fell off the ravine and landed on Glass, the audience laughed. I didn’t see what was so funny except a Murphy’s Law kind of ending to a horrific scene. I love the Bear scene.

          1. i loved it too. i watched it five times. but it was ludicrous and the audience was right to laugh. on my home screen i didnt see the man posing a threat to the cubs….funnier than this cliff scene was the one in which the man fell over the cliff on his horse. he hadnt a scratch but the horse was bloody dead. and when the man cut open the horse, removed ts organs, and climbed inside for a nap, i was waiting for the horse to say, “ollie, you have gotten us into another fine mess.”

      2. Lloyd, it was the camer’s perspective on the bearr shot long from Fitzgerald’s distant point of view, in the safe zone, before turning and returning for another attack, as well as the unrealistic movement of the GCI bear as it ran toward the camera….that I found incredulously funny. also watching Decaprio pretend to be mauled to near death with all that wiggling and squirming…it wasjust so bad that it was fascinating. and yes, i saw both the Little Dieter featu

    2. I disagree with you, Bill. The bear scene was a great. The time it took for Iñárritu to research to stage such a powerful scene with authenticity is commendable. “ILM used its Zeno pipeline for simulation, Maya for animation and Pixar’s RenderMan for rendering.” http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/how-they-created-the-bear-vfx-for-the-mauling-of-leonardo-dicaprio-in-the-revenant-20160104
      It’s obvious you don’t care for the style of shooting by Iñárritu which is your prerogative. 🙂
      I appreciate his efforts and thought the bear attack a cinematic feat.

      1. where in the movie did it tell you about the director’s research? are you reviewing the movie or its press releases? its not that i dont care for the style of shooting. it worked for birdman, which i liked, and also for gravity, which i didnt like. but here it had the effect of a wandering eye, and it sabatoged any pretense at composition as it kept wandering through and away from the material it was employed to photograph. also, i positively hated the extreme closeups on the side of the image. just
        plain ugly.

  6. This is a movie that bullies the audience into liking it. How can one argue with those formidable landscapes? Personally, I preferred the natural photography in Walt Disney’s White Wilderness) And wow, what superhuman endurance has that Leonardo DeCaprio as he crawls out of the grave, drags himself across the ice, and down a deadly waterfall, His performance proves if you are a big, lumbering man with abnormal features covered in mud,filt ih, and blood, who takes up more screen space than he deserves that he can pass himself off as the new Orson Welles.

    A revenant is a person who returns, usually from the dead. Herein lies the film’s ambiguity,and the one aspect of the film that engaged my mind, though not enough to keep from from falling asleep and having to start the movie over seven times. If he is dead then at what point did he die? After the bear attack? or was he dead from the start? Or did he only die toward the end, shortly before the remark that he was afraid of death, a he had already been there. Of course, yhs line can also be interpreted metaphorically, and he was alive right up until the end. The definition give us this out when it says the return is usuallyfrom the dad. It reminded me of an M. Night Shyamalan con, coasting on ambiguity until reaching a revelation that is supposed to make you think the movie is a lot better than you thought it was.

      1. Lloyd, it wasn’t that I disliked the movie. There just wasnt enough there to keep my mind engaged, and so I kept falling asleep. In contrast, I despised The Hateful 8, but the vulgarian in me was quite entertained by its wallow in tasteless filth and misanthropic violence. It had the foul lure of Donald Trump rant. Had I disliked The Revenant, i would not have returned to it seven times in order to see the whole thing. But I can’t jump on the Praise Wagon and hail it as the second coming of Stanley Kubrick. I liked the director’s previous film, Birdman, and thought it was deserving of the awards it reg, ceived. But the Revenant, although a decent picture on its own terms and a sight better than the similar “Bone tomohawk,” didnt even make my top ten. It reminded me of Gravity, which I found near-unwatchable, but was twice as long, making the experience of watching it nearly as arduous. It’s not that I dont like long, narratively weak movies. But they have to engage me on some level. Story has n er watchever been overly important to me, but the methods of cinematic story-telling are. And I would rather watch monks go about their daily routines for three hours in “Into Great Silence”
        than witness Di Caprio’s bloody trudge across the tundra. And the world will still remember Lilian Gish escaping along breaking ice in DW Griffith’s Way Down East long after DeCaprio’s tumble down the deadly waterfall is forgotten.

    1. The metaphoric angle is an interesting one. The real Glass supposedly crawled for 100 miles to get to the fort. Even if that’s a Paul Bunyon tale, crawling 5 miles would be a lot to me. When did he die? A great question. He is a cat with 9 lives.

  7. Hey, HAPPY BIRTHDAY dear Cindy! I wish you all of life’s best and may 2016 be a wonderful year for you!

    Wow what a great and thought-provoking discussion here! I haven’t seen the film but as far as the question about simplicity vs layered narrative, I really think it depends. I think sometimes a simple narrative could be far more compelling if done well, and I think one great example of that is Brooklyn, which is a no-frill retelling of a girl’s journey as an immigrant.

    I left a comment on Dave’s review http://ccpopculture.com/2015/12/12/the-revenant-pairs-physical-brutality-with-moral-simplicity/comment-page-1/#comment-7546 I love this question of ‘Does the physical endurance test Leonardo DiCaprio passed to make this film count as acting?’ and I always wonder about that, whether taking a role to the extreme automatically make a character authentic. I don’t think that’s always the case, though there are actors who can achieve such greatness. It’d take a very special skill to be able to pull that off.

    1. sometimes an actor makes a physical sacrifice in the course of a film. Lililian Gish suffered lifetime damage to her hand through her subjection to the icy Vermont waters in the ice floe sequence of way down east. her willingness to do this scene as Griffith directed it shows a comittment to her art, but is not necessarily evidence of the quality of her work. it is the acting itself that proves her a superior actress. DiCaprio, on the other hand, showed nothing in “The Revenant” that lifts him above the common run of actors. Like Sean Penn, he has made the decision to be a great actor, and performs in such a way that allows him to come across as one, but a careful study of both reveals only an apelike imitation of what each believes to be great acting…at least I have seen no originality or genius in either’s work.

      1. Hi Bill. I have no love at all for DiCaprio as an actor. To be honest, I find him irritating, and am at a loss to understand what Scorsese sees in him, to be involved in so many collaborations.
        You mention ‘The New World.’ Have you by any chance seen ‘Black Robe’? This is my favourite ‘Wilderness/Native American film. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101465/
        Regards, Pete.

        1. Black Robe is an excellent film. it was the favorite of a friend of mine from Senegal as well. I liked DiCaprio when he was a kid. thought he did a good job as Johnny Depp’s retard brother in Gilbert Grape. I think Scorsese likes his orson Welles’ presence, which he helped create when he cast him as the Hughes/ Kane character in the Aviator. Scorsese is do demented that he probably is fantasizing that he is directng Welles when working with DiCaprio.

      2. I guessed that you would have seen it, and I am pleased that you like it.
        I enjoyed ‘Gilbert Grape’ too, and thought the film was unusual, with the feel of a realistic ‘Waltons.’
        Cheers, Pete.

    2. I agree with you, Ruth. As Lloyd said, “I believed in the journey” means his performance resonated. I’m not sure how I feel about his performance. I’m a fan, but there are other films I thought he “acted” better (The Aviator) because he was able to speak. Still, Leo made it look easy and I respect him for his devotion to the role.

  8. A belated Happy Birthday, Cindy. As much as this movie sounds interesting to me and should be seen on a large screen, I am going to pass for now. We have temps around and below zero. I wish they had released it in the summer months when you don’t minding watching snow and cold in a movie.

    1. Haha I was thinking the same thing. The timing is good in one way, but brutal in other aspects. It certainly will make you feel chilly! Thanks for reading this post Don

  9. A very Happy Birthday to you Cindy, thank you so much for sharing my insight here. I have to disagree with Dave on one key aspect here. I’m not sure if The Revenant has any responsibility to create a deep morality play here. It’s survival; plain and simple. Think of it as a movie that, if Bear Grylls were any good at making films (he’s kind of a joke at this point with his TV series in my book — far more celebrity than a survivalist I’d be in awe by) it’s something he would do. I think also that describing this role as merely an ‘endurance test’ for Leo is, ironically, underserving what he had to do. This is one hell of a physical performance. No one else could I see take on this kind of assignment and be able to convey the pain, the loneliness and the fear rooted in the desperation of his circumstances.

    So for me The Revenant is all about simplicity. Rare are the films these days that take that approach, because honestly it’s a bold move. Studios are all about — if they’re not propping up a massive spectacular CGI fest filled with multiple stories going on all at once — complicating things and getting audiences to “think” because that’s now the new thing to do since Nolan has give us the Dark Knight trilogy, but even this approach is kind of half-assed b/c those stories are easier to follow since they’re adaptations. True, The Revenant is based on a book, but the way Lubezki captures the environment, and Iñárritu’s decision to keep his crew perpetually exposed to the elements gives the movie a vitality a great many films these days lack. I don’t know. I’m probably in the minority thinking it’s a damn close to perfect film, but I was totally overwhelmed by it. I do grant you that there are moments of weakness though. What films don’t have them? 😉

    1. For an excellent physical performance,I would give this year’s Oscar to Jake Gyllenhaal for “Southpaw.” although the actor meets the minimum weight qualifications for light heavyweight, he convinces us, on sheer acting talent alone, that he is the world champion in that category. to say nothing of the physical beating he is pretending to take. Dicaprio, although his suffering seems real, looks to me like an out of shape celebrity who is eager to get back into his trailer for a gourmet meal and some wine.

      1. The tone of this comment, or at least the part about Leo’s role, makes me think you’re trying to overcompensate for all of the accolades that the man is earning and is quite possibly going to be receiving from the Academy.

        I can’t deny you the transformation Gyllenhaal went through in Southpaw. That was tremendous work. He was in a much worse film though, but I wouldn’t say that had an impact on his own work. I loved what that guy has been doing. But Leo here is on another level. But I think me trying to say anything at all about how good he is will be pointless, compliments will fall on deaf ears here because calling him an out-of-shape celebrity is so dismissive the only thing I can do is laugh.

        1. you are in good company here, tom. plenty of people will appreciate your words of dicaprio’s performance, including myself, although i may not agree with you. so many of you people today have forgotten the pleasures of the exchange of opposing viewpoints. what you have to say about dicaprio will definitely enrich me, and im sorry to think that my perspective will fail to enrich you. i am glad, however, that you can laugh at the idea that he is an out of shape celebrity, because i meant the comment to be funny. the same thing could be said in a very unfunny, mean way, that would not have any enriching qualities.

          1. Cheers Bill. You know, communicating through blogs often can be awkward. I have this way about me that is all too easy to misconstrue. I am a highly sarcastic individual and I don’t think sarcasm translates well in text. 😉

            You’re completely right. The art of disagreement — respectful disagreement anyway — is kind of dying. I can see why people don’t like to do it b/c often they feel it’s a confrontational kind of thing, but I always think it’s best to say what’s on a person’s mind. They say honesty is the best policy.

          2. All one can say is that which is in one’s mind. I value ideas above most everything else, whether they are right or wrong. and if i wrote something other than I am thinking, i am writing nothing of value at all. And so yes, i agree with you..honesty it the only policy. by the way, thack about dicaprio as an out of shape celebrity who is eager for the scene to be finshed so he can eat was somewhat inspired by european director jesus franco’s observation that the reason orson welles could never finish a movie was that he started work at 9am, put in three hours work, followed by a 4 hour lunch, after which he was too loaded with food and wine to do any more work that day.

      1. Complicated storytelling also works (read: Inception; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) but with a film like this, I didn’t think in-deth existential wanderings were necessary. To each their own, of course. I totally get why some might think the adventure on display rings a little hollow but for me it was everything I had hoped it would be.

  10. Reblogged this on digitalshortbread and commented:

    Dear loyal DSB-ers. . . DSB-ites . . . DSB-ians. . .(what’s the correct syntax here?)

    I am delighted to bring you a link to a discussion I was fortunate enough to be part of over at Cindy Bruchman, an absolutely outstanding site discussing many different aspects of film and the culture that surrounds it. If this post is the first time you’ve heard of the site, you really should take a little time to check out what Cindy is doing. It’s fabulous work.

    This piece today, part of her Lucky 13 Film Club, discusses aspects of the recent survival drama The Revenant. I’d be elated to hear what you guys have to say about our thoughts on it. Thank you.

  11. Just returned for a late evening round-up of all the comments. Great to see so many thoughts and opinions, and everyone getting involved. This was a good one, Cindy.
    I hope that the rest of your birthday went well.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  12. Happy Birthday Cindy! Great discussion and comments from everyone. While I was watching the movie, I did get pulled of it for a moment thinking … is this just a survival and revenge story but mostly I enjoyed the experience of what was happening.Cheers!

    1. Sorry! I missed your comment. I agree, the sensory experience engulfed me and the non-verbal communication and symbolic stills haunted me. A simple survival story? I don’t think so.

  13. The Revenant has some of the most ravishing cinematography I have ever seen. DP Emmanuel Lubezki presents these snow covered vistas with a visual grandeur that is never less than breathtaking. The quiet majesty present in his work here makes violent events and a harsh weather look strikingly beautiful. By all accounts, this was not an easy shoot. He, like Hugh Glass, tames the wilderness. He brings out the panoramic beauty of this unforgiving climate. I wish I could develop stills from this movie and make a coffee table book! 😀

    1. Mark, you and I are in total agreement. The breadth of his shots — grand vistas to closeup dew on the leaves to the loud roar of the river to the quiet groan of the trees makes for a sensory treat like no other.

  14. I missed your Club … again.
    I would would say this: ‘The Revenant’ is not as deep as the original: ‘Man in the Wilderness’.
    The main difference is ‘The Revenant’ is a simple revenge story. Goodguys chasing Badguys.
    In Man in the Wilderness, Glass starts with hate and vengeance in his heart, and ends up chasing himself. He undergoes a change – he grows and gains from his horrific trials in a Spiritual way. We see that transition – which is also factually true: Glass forgave those that left him. He realized they weren’t evil – just human.

    1. JC, that’s okay you came today! And you are quite right about ‘Man in the Wilderness’. That has come up about moral ambiguity and whether it would have enhanced the film or not. I would say ‘yes’ it would have been interesting, but I just can’t see it since they added the subplot of the murder of his son and wife.

    2. I think this is largely die to an intelligent script by jack de witt, who also wrote “A man Called Horse,” a film that explored physical pain more deeply than The Revenant…… and the fact that Richard Harris is an accomplished actor and Leonardo DeCaprio is not

  15. Yes. I’m loving the intellectual analysis guys . This is what I crave. I love the Terrence Mallick vibe, not just the same cinematographer either, I mean thematically. I saw Revenant twice in 1 day. I never do that. But I love being challenged.

    Cindy, I’m glad you mentioned the hovering wife spirit sequence. People laughed at my screenings. I think the marketing got average film fans to see art. So what’s the bear symbolize? The bird flying out of ribs is clear soul metaphor. The mountain of skulls represent the souls Glass has taken, adding an internal layer when he sees the buffalo roam. The tree trunk and branches metaphor was great too. Dialogue was good for most part, but more on philosophical level. Does the bear mean something to native culture? Killing a bear may mark the man as chosen, or special? By end, Glass seems to have switched Gods, or found the true one – mother nature?

    By the way, love Hardy. I like that moment when he finds a watchpiece in burned village. He says the Natives steal everything, meanwhile the white man stole their land and their resources. This more subtle approach, I agree, is better than outright saying it, like you mentioned.

    Sorry for long comment, I really need to review this I guess 😉 so much to say on revenge angle too. And the direction. And…….

    1. Oh, Dan, what a great contribution to the discussion! The hovering: the audience laughed? Weird. Clearly Glass was hallucinating/dreaming his wife in his suffering. I thought it highly effective. Mysticism and symbolisms abound in the Native American culture and I applaud Mr. I for adding the surreal element to the film like the bird flying out of the chest. The Bear, marked by the animal who has chosen, the nail necklace, the talisman. So horse. Climbing into the carcass to stay warm and literally becoming the horse, I wonder what that is supposed to symbolize, if anything. I think Glass had established his loyalties with Mother Nature when he took on a Native American family. Notice the only time you hear him speak, except for a gnarly utterance, it’s Pawnee.
      “The mountain of skulls represent the souls Glass has taken, adding an internal layer when he sees the buffalo roam.” Certainly what the white man has taken. The relationship between the animals in the film and Glass is a fascinating angle to the film. The horse in Native American cultures symbolize loyalty, strength, love, and mobility–not much of a surprise there. The horse saved his life from the bitter cold. I’m going to say that the animals — bear, the buffalo supper, the horse impart the strength and stamina to endure Mother Nature. In the film, Glass seems to have supernatural abilities. By embracing the Native American way, he’s able to survive and triumphs over the whites.

      1. The horse broke his fall and saved his life. The bear by mauling him to near death actually gives him life. His wife who was waiting on the other side beckons him across one realm to another. At the end, he survives and the closing shot, that intense stare, glassy-eyed–was he saying good bye to his wife (and son)? Is that the answer to the question of Glass? Will he choose life or death? Add in the comment “I ain’t scared to die because I’ve already died before” adds to the ambiguity of it all.

      2. Yes! Glad you were okay with the commentary. I rather enjoyed yours too.

        I love the animal (human included) themes. I also noticed that the final line DiCaprio speaks is in Native Language, which helped the interpretation.

        As for the symbolism of staying warm inside the horse, I took it as a rebirth. Plus, nasty right. We are so comfortable in contemporary society, even getting dirt on our hands is a tragedy to hard to endure for some. Revenant reminds us we are just another animal struggling to survive against Mother Nature. Instead of battling her, we should go with the flow (so to speak), and work with her.

        I also love the continuing imagery of water, like how it opens on water drowning the forest. Then, Glass seeing his wife under water. Then, seeing Hardy at the end under water. The symbolism there, for me, was his quest for revenge was actually for his wife. He realized he fulfilled it, when she passed from limbo(?). Where once he only noticed the branches, now he sees the trunk (a la wife’s narration).

        I love deconstructing film and talking interpretations. Thanks for helping me along there, Cindy, and illuminating another understanding of the surface.

    2. Dude, there’s so much to be said about The Revenant. I’m glad it’s generated such a spirited discussion. And by the seems of things at the B.O. it really has become a massive hit. Maybe not Star Wars big, but I actually don’t think such a comparison is too far off the map. I tried to see this last Friday at a 6:30 showing only to find out it was sold out, as was the 7:15. Finally settled on the 10:15 one and that one was close to being sold out as well. Good for these guys. I’m glad to see it do so well. It’s a unique experience and a challenging one on some level.

      1. I’m super happy Revenant is being seen too. It is rare for Oscar flicks to make this much money. A strong 2nd weekend too because of all the award buzz. I’m glad so many movie fans are buying tickets for art. I hope they take it seriously and enjoy the more interpretive elements as well. This movie works on the (grimy) surface, but it’s so much deeper than that. Now, if only Terrence Mallick movies could make money. Hahah. Hey, DiCaprio hop on over to Mallick next, please. He’s like the only legendary director Leo hasn’t worked with yet.

  16. Happy belated birthday Cindy 🙂 I seem to be on an island with this one, it looked amazing but didn’t suck me in at all. As for your questions:

    -Hardy filled the space but I couldn’t understand half of what he said. Subtitles would have been handy!

    -Stuff like eating raw bison, shooting in sub zero conditions… that is a test of one’s dedication to acting, I don’t think it should ‘count’ as acting. But I’m sure it will be enough to get him his silly statue either way

    -I read Dave’s article a while ago and I remember agreeing with a lot of it. The film is very one note; revenge revenge revenge. For three hours! The insertion of a family felt tacked on, which it was I think, he didn’t have a family in the book as far as I know. His son doesn’t get to do much, and the hallucinations he had of his wife just didn’t move me at all.

    -The ending really irritated me, as he says something like letting nature decide, as if he has learned something deep. BUT, in reality, he had done everything -but- kill Fitzgerald! All he does is plop the half-dead body in the river for the waiting Indians to take and kill! How is that letting nature decide!? I don’t understand any of that at all, what he says contradicts what he does.

    So I don’t really know what that last shot is meant to represent. His values haven’t changed, he did everything but strike the final blow…. I guess, since he had some other visions, that the last shot is him looking at his wife. But it could be anything really, its very similar to the ending of Birdman – which to me was too ambiguous for its own good.

    But that’s just me, I’ve only read two reviews that fall in line with mine, one was Dave’s and the other was in Sight & Sound film mag.

    1. Hi Jordan, ah, poor guy alone on the island, how’s the view? 😉 Just teasing. You are not alone, and I do understand your position. I will say that many people felt a simple man vs. nature plot was fine while others felt a moral reckoning or grappling would have made his character better. There seems to be a little of this at the ending when he lets him go for Nature to decide, but I think it should have been developed more. Also, I agree with you the son was a wasted character for the amount of time given to him on the screen. The wife was fine with me, however, that too, was thin. Still, still, still, despite these flaws (did you like the bear attack?) the movie captured my attention and wouldn’t let go. Perhaps because I love survival stories and the great outdoors. Thank you, Jordan for stopping by to comment!

      1. I still don’t understand the ending… he’s done -everything- but strike the final blow… is that letting nature decide? To my eyes he hasn’t changed at all, he got his bloodlust, gutted Fitzgerald, then utters something about letting nature decide… a bit late to say that when your prey is already bleeding out!!

        The bear attack was great 😀 Its a great looking movie, no doubt

  17. Belated happy birthday from me. I’m sorry I’m late to this discussion but I only saw The Revenant last night. I was impressed by it, and liked its simplicity: a straightforward revenge tale with a few added bells and whistles (political, spiritual) that suggest depth that isn’t actually there. Anyway, I’m generally falling in line and I liked the obvious elements that seem to have pleased the majority of people: the beautiful photography of the landscape, the exciting set pieces, the two central performances by DiCaprio and Hardy.

    Fo me an actor being rewarded for their work with an award – not that DiCaprio has the coveted golden statute in his bathroom just yet – can be for any number of equally-valid reasons, and I think if he or she puts themselves through a formidable physical ordeal in order to make the character and the situation as convincing as possible then that should be taken into account. I’ve seen quite a lot of indifference to the effort DiCaprio has made, here and there, which surprises me. Of course I don’t think you should receive awards simply for enduring hellish shoots, but when the signs of that endurance are up on screen and entirely relevant to the character and the story then I don’t really see what’s wrong with voting for it.

    Not sure if that makes sense. I’m typing well but not thinking well!

    Absolutely no problem with Lubezki’s work here. It’s superb.

    1. Hi Stu! So glad to hear from you. Thanks for your thoughts. I think this year will be an easy win for Leo considering the competition. I’m curious if Tom Hardy will win. I don’t think so — I didn’t see Creed, so I don’t know if Sly was better, but there’s a camp out there that liked his performance a lot.

      1. I think an easy win too. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t this year, the competition just isn’t that great. Hardy is very good here but I’d still probably pick Mark Rylance from the ones I’ve seen (Spotlight isn’t out here yet, so I haven’t seen Ruffalo). I really enjoyed Stallone, so really I’d be happy to see anyone win. Wait…I was desperately trying hard not to care about the Oscars! I’ve let my guard down!

        1. Ha Ha, Stu. I know it’s rigged, etcetera, but I still enjoy the evening and seeing everyone in real-time. It’s an annual event in my house with champagne and my daughter and I glued to the sofa. I’m not apologizing!

  18. Hello Cindy. Belated happy birthday. I’ve missed your thoughtful guide to how I spend my movie-watching time. I wanted to see Revenant but could not come up with good enough reasons to persuade my wife to do so, as she prefers movies with relationship content. Your review convinced me that she definitely would not like Revenant but that I definitely would. Solution, I’m going on my own!

    1. Welcome back, Malcolm! How’s that manuscript of yours? I’m happy to share my love for movies with you. Since you’ve been gone, I’ve started this discussion, a once-a-month gathering of anyone who wants to discuss the month’s topic. February’s topic is 3 British films set in the 1930s and their comedic attributes. All you need do is watch one or more and join in the discussion on the 13th. Maybe your wife will join you as they are all about women looking for love and no one gets mauled by a bear. 🙂

      https://cindybruchman.com/2016/01/17/lucky-13-film-club-february-topic/

      Glad you’ve returned to the blogosphere, Malcolm.

  19. It took a while, but I finally watched The Revemamt this evening. Some great photography, and an interesting story. I should have seen this movie in a big screen theater. I am sure I will watch it again..

    1. Hi, Allen. I wait for 95 percent of films to go to home viewing. The Revenant was an exception. It was great on the big screen. I watched it for the second time just last weekend. It holds up well. I love the cinematography!

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