Thank you, Tom at Digital Shortbread, for co-hosting this month’s feature of the Lucky 13 Film Club. Tom’s reviews are gracefully constructed and insightful. I highly recommend you check out his site; start with his full review of The Revenant
I’m of the thinking that the best dramas are always able to do so much with so little. The Revenant is a perfect example. Dialogue runs at a premium, and the overriding narrative arc comes down to a simple revenge plot, detailing experienced explorer Hugh Glass’s ordeal after he’s left for dead by his men following a grisly bear attack and after witnessing his son’s murder at the hands of fur trapper John Fitzgerald.
The Revenant is a western unlike any other. Who knew watching a man crawl on his hands and knees for much of the 2-and-a-half-hour run time could be so compelling? Or that experiencing the protective instincts of a mother bear could be so nightmarish? In the picture there’s a great deal of death and destruction but triumphing over all is a true story of survival and human courage. Alejandro González Iñárritu knew that, in order for audiences to appreciate what it took just to stay alive in early 19th century America, he would have to create an experience that would be both intensely visceral and boldly visual.
Thematically, the film is near bare-bones stuff with a bit of fat and gristle left clinging on the inside. Men are brutes and society is far from civilized. When watching the film it’s important that we recognize the challenges presented by the simplest events. Starting a fire in gale-force winds as a blizzard seems impossible but it must be done if man is to make it through the night. Foraging for food (no matter how gross) becomes a matter of life and death. It’s these kinds of things that make The Revenant different from the rest and make it an experience that’s wholly satisfying and deeply moving.
How do you see the film? Do you think there’s beauty in the simplistic? Is The Revenant better off for introducing a story that risks familiarity for the sake of getting to the heart and soul of life on the frontier? Or would you have preferred a more complex and layered narrative?