My experience of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’ and what I seemed to have taken from it is much like that of a typical Werner Herzog film. The depiction of the sublimity of nature is one that Herzog has proven to have mastered in his documentaries and until now, I have never seen this concept executed in a fictional Hollywood narrative come close to my experience of Herzog’s films. Realistically portrayed bear attack or not, ‘The Revenant’ not only reflects the obvious, ‘Grizzly Man’ but films like ‘Encounters at the End of the World’ which let the beautifully terrifying images of the natural world play a more than significant part in telling the story. The camera seems to be guided and pushed and lured by nature’s Godly presence within the narrative. Yes, for someone like me who has never been able to find a religious bone in my body, there is something about this film that struck some sort of spiritual chord and had me mesmerized.

The constant innovative use of tracking shots and lack of quick cuts reflect the film’s unwavering ability to hold the audience captive, perhaps in some sort of trance. The tracking shots allow for a certain emphasis on movement that seems to weaken the barrier of the screen, forcing the audience to become much more involved with the narrative. Normally, I am easily able to avert my eyes from this particular kind of ruthless, gory violence, however, the only time I can remember taking my eyes off the screen was to wipe away tears.

Any viewers who decide to watch the film with expectations of it fulfilling their every definition of the perfect film should prepare themselves for disappointment. I hate to break it to those of you, but just like people, the perfect film just does not exist. ‘The Revenant’ will not provide you with characters set out on a journey of self-discovery or even any development for that matter. Not to mention the lack of dialogue and knowledge of who the characters are, which is why many viewers may criticize the film’s “failure” to establish an emotional connection with its audience. To me, these elements that so many find to be missing, did not cross my mind, or if they did, it was because of how much I thought that the lack-there-of functioned to enhance the film altogether. It’s just not that kind of story. The narrative here is both literally and figuratively a cutthroat story of the relationship between nature’s wilderness and the nature of mankind. The rawness and harshness of the film’s content serves the viewer more than enough heart-wrenching moments and images to hold on to that the background history and detailed knowledge that could have been gained from additional exchanges between characters is not necessary. The film lets nature and humanity as an abstract form, do the majority of the talking.

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18 thoughts on “‘The Revenant’ (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2015)

  1. The comparisons to Herzog are spot on – the type of film that seemed an ordeal to make and that effort mightily paid off. Certainly far from perfect, but pleasingly ambitious.
    Really like your blog – looking forward to checking out your future reviews.
    Jordan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The perfect film doesn’t exist? I beg to differ: Star Trek I, Star Trek II, Star Trek III, Star Trek IV, Star Trek V, Star Trek VI, Star Trek VII, Star Trek VIII, Star Trek IX, Star Trek X, Star Trek XI, Star Trek XII, Star Trek XIII, Star Wars I, Star Wars II, Star Wars III, Star Wars IV, Star Wars V, Star Wars VI, Star Wars VII, Star Wars VIII, Star Wars IX.
    Okay, maybe I’m a little prejudiced………….lol

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely worth seeing. It was beautifully filmed and I love it whenever a filmmaker decides to tackle the alien invasion story from a different angle. Unfortunately I knew where the story was going from pretty early on, but most people I speak to have said it wasn’t the case for them.

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  3. I like what you’re saying regarding the grizzled edge of nature reflecting on the harsher elements of the human spirit here, and that therefore narrative elements and dialogue should take a backseat as there is much more to gain from the unspoken. It’s a fair concept, and something I think the film should have focused on. What if The Revenant had been a silent picture? What if nature and violence and spirituality had really taken point, and not try to meet modern expectations of narrative with loose, indecisive characterisation and poorly rationalised logical choices?
    As it stands, the movie is half-baked. If there truly was a desire to let spiritualism tell the tale, then let it do so; don’t work in skewed perceptions of the French, or frontier politics, or even try to explain more of the man Glass is rather than the man he represents. Or even the man Fitzgerald is; what did we gain by contextualising this force of malevolence? As it stands, a sense of spiritualism doesn’t mean anything, whispering in the background on its own, it’s just a sensation. You can get the same experience from zoning out to a good song, and that doesn’t take nearly three hours to get you there.
    I’m glad that what worked for the movie worked for you most though; this is in no way a disaster, but it is wholly a misdirection from my perspective.
    And I really did enjoy your review; tag me in more stuff so I don’t miss out! If you post to Twitter, that’d be best – @bigpicreviews 🙂

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    1. First of all, thanks for checking out my review. Second of all, thank you so much for taking the time to tell me what you think. As far as what you say about how the film should have focused on what I conceptualize in my review, I think this was the main theme they were trying to get across. I do not feel as if they were merely trying to “meet modern expectations of narrative”, perhaps to a certain degree. I felt as if Fitzgerald’s character and the many evil figures that arise in the narrative successfully function as a sort of sub-thematic revelation. These extreme acts of evil remind us that no matter what kind of damage we as humans can do to one another, there are forces in the world much greater than our own. I do not know how realistic these portrayals are because I did not live to see the world unfolding at this particular time and in this particular place. What I do know is that people as disgustingly heinous as Fitzgerald, do exist in the world and that they are capable of committing the most unimaginable acts of evil. So yes, his irrationally evil and nonsensical actions may not make sense to the average person, but it is not to say that it is unbelievable to an extent that discredits the filmmaker’s motive behind the fusing of both the evils and wonders of human nature as well as the nature of our physical world. Why must they limit themselves to putting focus purely on the first or the latter, singularly?
      Anyhow, I genuinely look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. I do not have Twitter at the moment but I may create a Facebook page soon if this blog actually starts going somewhere. Again, Thank you so much for your feedback and your interest in my reviews, it is much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely a fair take; not one that totally rings true for me, as I feel Fitzgerald’s chaotic nature was perfectly fine and that it’s the other character’s irrationality that drew more ire, but it’s much better knowing that, for you, the exploration of the themes were handled well and you were more than satisfied with how they were handled. This is the kind of divisive film that will definitely strike some more than others; for me, it lacked definition in its actions to justify the higher themes it was pulling at. But that’s me 🙂
        I’ll try and keep a lookout for more reviews in future, I’ve followed the blog but I seldom use the reader function on WordPress, so if you flag my attention every now and again I would be more than happy to read more 🙂
        Oh, and thanks for the original comment you left, really appreciate it!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Herzog indeed, great comparison.

    Werner aside, my favourite part of this review is when you use your personal voice; “Yes, for someone like me who has never been able to find a religious bone in my body, there is something about this film that struck some sort of spiritual chord and had me mesmerized.” This grounds the movie going experience as something profoundly personal which then in turn gives it universal appeal.

    Writing reviews is difficult, too often they just turn into a bullet point rehash of the story without any insight or personal reflection. Like you said: movies can’t be all things to all people so why not focus on what they mean to you. Bringing your own slant to the material will be more interesting to read as well in the end to write. This can be a slippery slope because firstly, not everyone’s going to agree with you and secondly, to really unpack something, spoilers can get involved. I once read a review for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince before I had a chance to read the book and the reviewer decided to give away the ending in the review. This kind of stuff makes you crazy. There’s nothing wrong with spoilers as long as you give the readers a head’s up obviously.

    Perhaps you would like to give your reviews some kind of ratings system. Your readers want to know whether they should spend their time and money on these films. A quick thumbs up or down ( don’t use that one; intellectual property copyright law yadda yadda) might be something to contemplate.

    You’re off to a great start, looking forward to your review of Rogue One. Since you’ve never seen a Star Wars film you owe it to your readers to share your first time experience. Make it personal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading one of my reviews! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. And yes spoilers are always risky but sometimes necessary which is why some of my reviews contain spoilers but I always warn the readers in advance. Thank you for your suggestions as well, super helpful! I will try and come up with a rating system of my own to make it a bit easier for readers who are debating whether to see the film or not. Welcome to my blog!

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  5. Thanks for linking your blog when commenting on my Revenant review!
    Your review is outstanding! I think I have found a new favourite film blog, I’ll be rummaging through your other reviews now. 😀

    Like

  6. I completely agree! I was so annoyed that Leo won Best Actor. I wasn’t surprised, but I still hoped it would go to Eddie Redmayne for Danish Girl. Also, the story itself was pretty weak. Thanks for sharing my feelings =)

    Like

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