The newly released 2016 film ‘The Revenant’ may be considered one of few cinematic creations so fully committed, to the notion of representing human endurance in vast circumstances of survival. Director Alejandro G. Inarritu plunges both the actors themselves as well as the audience into an intense and breathtaking depiction of the life of Hugh Glass, and his survival in the wilderness.
The film is considered an adaptation by Inarritu and Mark L. Smith from Michael Punke’s 2002 fact-based novel, set in 1823. The films setting, now known as Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska, centres around the fictionalised version of the character Hugh Glass, played by leading actor Leonardo Di Caprio, who amidst guiding beaver trappers deep into the terrain of the forest is abandoned. The film may seek to combine an intimate portrayal of a human experience with the incidents of peril amidst his survival in a sensory experience that evokes the message of Hugh Glass’s story.
Director Inarritu and Emmanuel Lubezki’s stylistic approach may have been an element preempted by audiences who may be familiar with their work on last year’s Oscar-winning “Birdman” . Likewise, the casting of Tom Hardy and “Ex-Machina’s Domhnall Gleeson, alongside Leonardo Di Caprio may contribute to the film’s critical acclaim. This aims to see actor Leonardo Di caprio winning his first Oscar, following nominations for previous films seeing him being nominated for six Academy Awards; 11 Golden Globe Awards.
The sensory and aesthetic elements of the film may be considered a primary embodiment of author Punke’s key concepts within the film which are further explored as a discovery of the beauty and terror of the natural world as well as the beauty and terror of the human condition. This is largely depicted in the director’s ability to capture a sense of physicality, in which the dialogue remains minimal and thus, relies largely on the aesthetic of the sub-zero landscape of the forest and sheer characterisation.
The wide shots of dense trees, and the intimacy of Lubezki’s camera, present often darting movements and 360-degree turns which may add to the sense of hypnotism and impenetrable feel of the nature in which the character is consumed. Likewise, the depiction of Di Caprios acute sense of isolation may be considered to be relied upon by sheer characterisation where Hugh Glass’s interior journey is often projected by microscopic moments of grunts, wheezing and breathless exhalations. This may be considered a largely revolutionary concept in which the sensory and aesthetic experiences dominate, which may position the movie ‘The Revenant’ as a rare cinematic experience of heightened exploration of human endurance and isolation.
The sound design largely contributes to this with an incorporation of sounds at disarray. The brooks, rustling trees, hoofbeats, falling bodies and far away voices may in combination, function as a wild symphony of Hugh Glass’s overwhelming woodland experience. Likewise the score by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s synth-like melody artfully crescendo’s in combination with an unraveling plot, evoking a sense of pace and engagement, creating a more sensitive cinematic experience. This, combined with minimal dialogue may add to the film’s sense of impending time, highlighting Glass’s isolation further as a shared audience experience. The film’s aim to focus on the physical rather than the scriptural aspects of characterisation may see Leonardo Di Caprio challenged in his career as an actor in a testing and more complex role.
The film aims to have the ability to emerge new dimensions to the historical era of Hugh Glass and the indigenous people which may offer unique light on the characters such as the ‘Arikara hunter’s’. The director’s artistic direction in exploring the existential experience of Hugh Glass may relate to the larger historical experience of the survival of the indigenous people. This concept may be in accordance with the title “The Revenant” itself, which may seek to personalise the character of Hugh Glass bringing a largely spiritual dimension to his character, and thus, may seek to re-redefine what his character represents as a historical figure.
How may the film ‘The Revenant’ contribute to a new and innovative sensory experience in cinema?